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July 6, 2023

What is Threads and what impact will it have on Twitter?

A new social media platform is taking the world by storm, but what will it be of Twitter?

By Silvia Pellegrino

Threads, Meta’s answer to Twitter, is now live and, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, attracted 30 million sign-ups in the first 24 hours after its launch.

Considering the fact that sister platform Instagram has over two billion active members, it is expected that the new social media app will welcome many more users in the coming days. It is already available in over 100 countries, including the US and UK, but cannot yet be downloaded in Europe due to data protection regulations.

Threads download screen against Twitter logo
The new application by Meta Platforms is Twitter’s competitor called Threads / Image: Shutterstock

But how does Threads work? And, amid a sea of wannabe Twitter competitors, many of which have sprung up since Elon Musk’s take-over of the platform last year, will it be a success?

What is Threads and how is it different from Twitter?

Threads is a new social media app launched by Facebook’s parent company Meta on 6 July 2023. Once logged in, the resemblance between Threads’ interface and Twitter is apparent, with both platforms having short text-focused posts, which users have the option of re-posting (equivalent to retweeting), favouriting, sharing them or replying to create a thread. 

Post by @zuck
View on Threads

This new social media network does not work if the user does not already have an Instagram account. Users should beware that, in order to delete a Threads account, one must also delete their linked Instagram account. 

The aim of Threads is to share thoughts, opinions, and media such as photos and videos. Posts have a 500 character limit, almost double Twitter’s 280 characters per post, even if Twitter Blue subscribers have access to more. The maximum length of a video on Threads is five minutes, while on Twitter it is two minutes and 20 seconds, again different for Twitter Blue users.

Overall, this new app is the direct retaliation to the general public’s dissatisfaction with Musk’s changes to the Twitter format. Zuckerberg says that the platform’s ultimate aim is “to keep it friendly as it expands, I think it’s possible and will ultimately be the key to its success”. 

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Who owns Threads?

Formerly known as Facebook, Meta is the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and now Threads. Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 while he was a student at Harvard University, and it remains the world’s most popular social media platform with some 2.9 billion active users. But, in the last decade, its popularity has declined due to various scandals around fake news and data-sharing

Meta also oversees Messenger, previously born as Facebook’s messaging app but has now become a platform, as well as WhatsApp, bought in 2014. Zuckerberg’s company purchased Instagram for around $1bn and, in 2022, it was the second-most downloaded app in the world after TikTok

Last year, the company changed its name to Meta, to reflect a new focus on the metaverse, virtual environments where business and social interactions can take place. It also owns Reality Labs, which focuses on virtual reality headsets like the Oculus.

What impact will Threads have on Twitter?

With the introduction of Twitter Blue and Musk’s attempts to promote it by setting a tweet rate, or viewing, limit for non-paying users, Twitter could be about to suffer a rapid demise, though it still has more than 400 million active users,

Until now, alternative platforms to Twitter – the likes of Mastodon, Nostr and BlueSky – have failed to capture the imagination of users, who have struggled to rebuild their existing networks without the ability to import follower lists.

Threads fixes this problem by directly linking it to Instagram. Indeed, every newly registered user has the possibility to import their following and follower list from their other account, though there is no way of importing your Twitter followers list.

Will Threads become bigger than Twitter? Zuckerberg said: “It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with one billion plus people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”

Read more: All of the tech layoffs announced in 2023

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