Watch out world — there’s a new social network in town. On July 5, Facebook parent company Meta launched Threads, an Instagram-integrated, text-based conversation app directly positioned to take down Twitter. “We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run,” Meta Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said at a company meeting in June, an almost explicit reference to Elon Musk’s problem child and the turmoil roiling its operations. But Twitter has had a bounty on its head for months, one rival microblogging platforms like Mastodon and Bluesky have failed to successfully capture, even as users abandon their beloved blue bird at a rapid clip. With Threads officially up and running, could Meta be the one to put Twitter in the ground?
What are the commentators saying?
“Of all the apps that have tried to be the Twitter killer,” Matthew Loh predicted for Insider, “Meta’s Threads is probably the one we’re all going to start using,” its “main advantage” being the billions of people who already use Instagram. “Threads is going to pose a huge threat to Twitter because it’s coming from the Meta and Instagram family of apps,” social media consultant Drew Benvie told Reuters. “If only one-in-ten Instagram users tries using Threads, it will overtake Twitter in the blink of an eye.” And let’s not forget about scale — “other platforms trying to capitalize on Twitter’s weakness,” like Tumblr, Mastodon and Bluesky, “are all much smaller than Meta,” noted The New York Times.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg also has a “monetization advantage” in this game, said Mack Wilowski for Investopedia: Instagram “dominates the market for sponsored content” and “remains by far the most popular platform for creators to showcase their content and be paid for it.” Twitter, on the other hand, has seen a sharp drop in advertising revenue, on which it’s incredibly reliant, and has “regularly missed its sales projections.” If Meta can persuade some of the “world’s biggest” ad spenders to “switch from Twitter to Threads,” it could “deliver a body blow that could prove near-fatal,” Carrie Marshall added for tech magazine T3.
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But even with Meta’s other app copycat successes, like Reels and Instagram Stories, the company has also had its misfires, like Poke and Slingshot, “earlier attempts to emulate Snap,” and Lasso, “another stab at copying TikTok,” said Jon Swartz in MarketWatch. Sure, it’s likely Threads makes a “seismic splash” in the market, but given Meta’s track record, “its overnight success is far from a slam dunk.” The app also comes with “Meta baggage,” said The Washington Post, including “moderation and algorithmic feed practices that have turned many people off” from other Zuckerberg-led products. And another potential sticking point: A user must delete their Instagram account should they want to delete their Threads account, the Times’ DealBook explained. “Would that invite scrutiny from the FTC, which has pledged to crack down on firms that make opting out of a service too onerous?”
Well, there is already one huge hiccup standing in the way of immediate Threads world domination: privacy regulations in Europe. It’s not that the app will never be available across the pond (though it is now available in the United Kingdom thanks to Brexit). Rather, European users will just “have to wait a bit” until Meta manages to sort out the issues, said Phone Arena’s Sebastian Pier, citing a decision from Ireland’s data protection regulator, which oversees tech giants headquartered in the country.
You see, much like Instagram, Threads asks its users for quite a “juicy personal data gamut,” including health data, browsing histories, contacts, purchases, and more. “At this point,” Pier wrote, “it’s easier just to list the areas Threads will not be poking a nose in.” But as a result of a ruling from the European Union’s highest court, “Meta can’t combine the data it collects about you on Facebook” with that of Instagram, WhatsApp, or other sites and apps “without getting your explicit permission,” per The Register. Sources say the company is holding back from a launch until it has more clarity on how to navigate that, per Ireland’s Independent.ie.