11 July 2024

Dubbed the “Twitter Killer”, Mark Zuckerberg’s conversation app “Threads” has been overwhelmingly well-received by users around the globe. Thirty million signed up within the first 24 hours of its launch, exceeding the target Zuckerberg had in mind.

“70 million signups on Threads as of this morning. Way beyond our expectations,” he wrote in a post to his Threads account on Friday.

Meta’s Threads directly competes with Elon Musk’s Twitter platform and Musk has accused it of being a copycat version of the app he bought last year. Zuckerberg replied that there should be a public conversation app with 1 billion+ people on it and that Twitter had an opportunity but failed to nail it.

Actually, Zuckerberg has Musk to thank not only for the “inspiration” of the conversation app but also Musk’s actionsthat unintentionally reduced Twitter’s popularity. Musk recently incited anger by imposing limits on how many tweets people could read on the app. And anyone with verification status (and who pays) can read more tweets!  

Such limitations set Twitter on fire as most of its users signed up because of the freedom and unlimited chats as well as the relatively low interference from paid advertising compared to other popular apps like Facebook or Instagram.

The new policy of Twitter betrays fans who have been relyingon the app. In Thailand, it has been a sanctuary for people who rant about everything from the cost of living and politics to football. It also is a relatively reliable source, as most respectednews personalities and media outlets update news and interesting information. With the limitations, one has to ask what good Twitter can do compared to the pre-Musk era.

With Twitter users – around 450 million of them – gutted at the limited read policy, it has been easy for tech companies including Meta to capitalize on the turmoil that has been going on for a few months. But it is Zuckerberg’s Threads that hasmade the most of that opportunity and ensured it has an advantage. Threads was almost bound to have a good head-start based on the number of Instagram users – about two billion not to mention the depth of Meta’s funding.

Tech-savvy punters around the world rushed to sign up to have a taste and feel of Threads and Thais are no exception. Though no official numbers have been revealed, most of the verified Metaaccounts and leading personalities are already there.

Ironically, Facebook users have recently ranted about the upcoming addition of the coveted blue check mark to their Instagram and Facebook accounts for a monthly fee. In Thailand, the service has not been implemented yet. It is illogical in a way. The people who happily sign in and brag about their new Threads account are the same group who have just thrown brickbats at Zuckerberg.

Like Twitter, Facebook has failed its loyal users several times and many have migrated to other apps. Its owner Meta has not quite succeeded with new products – think Snapchat or even the earlier Facebook Pages and others. Time will tell if the new product will be successful, or whether Meta will fail to retain users because of its policies. To date though, Threads has received mainly positive feedback from users. Many have found it a friendlier version of Twitter. especially the convenient sign-in that directly links to Instagram.

Still, for Twitter users and especially for those influencers, politicians, cheerleaders of political parties, experts in various fields and news personalities, Threads may not be the same as Twitter. The world of Instagram – dominated by photos and more recently short videos – is a rather different animal for wordy users. In these early days, there will be time to learn and get used to what your Instagram friends are like on the new Twitter”.

However, the strength of Threads is also its weakness. Being “similar” to Twitter is its strength but the logic is Why change if it’s too similar?

Brand loyalty also matters and the “new toy” hype may not last. How many people talk about Clubhouse nowadays? When Clubhouse was launched, all kinds of people joined and it was talked up as the next big thing.

So for the time being, the instant impact must be the increased screen time afforded to everyone on Threads. For that, we should thank Musk for trying to limit our tweet reads though it’s doubtful he did so to save our eyesight and give us quality off-screen time. But it is still far too early to say whether Threads can successfully outplay Twitter.  

For now, the most pleasant thing about Threads is that the infancy stage – like the honeymoon period of Facebook and other apps – is free and free of commercials. So, users can have some fun expressing themselves via text and photos.

The “time will tell” cliché is inappropriate in judging whether Threads will kill and replace Twitter. Despite its relatively lower number of fans, it is a rather unique platform. If it is going to take a nose-dive, it will be because of its own policies like the limited tweet read. Musk suing Zuckerberg is one thing but the real battle is how Musk reacts and proves to Twitter’s users that it is an irreplaceable app. And if he needs anyone to pay, he must demonstrate why it is worthwhile to spend money on Twitter. Threads is not a Twitter Killer in this writer’s opinion. If Twitter dies, it will be of its own doing, not from the new competition.

By Veena Thoopkrajae