Threads feature

If you haven’t joined Meta’s new Twitter-like service Threads yet, you have probably at least heard of it. At last count, more than 40 million people have reportedly joined. By the time you read this, that number will likely have increased. It’s all everyone can talk about in the tech space this week. But should you join?

What is Threads?

Threads Feed

First, let’s look at what Threads actually is. Threads, owned by Facebook and Instagram parent Meta, launched on July 5. You can download the app easily to your iOS or Android device, and log in even more easily using your existing Instagram credentials. The two accounts are forever linked, which has some benefits. You can immediately follow anyone you follow on Instagram, and they can do the same. So, you don’t start from ground zero, but rather instantly have a healthy group of people with whom to share musings.

As a social messaging service, you can share text-based messages, photos, videos, GIFs, memes, news links, and more on Threads, just like you can on Twitter. The service was built by the Instagram team and includes many of the same features you can use on that site. Among these is being able to switch your profile to Private, add a bio and profile photo, and even post Threads to your Insta Reels.

Threads vs. Twitter

Threads Search

How are these two services the same, and how are they different? You’ll instantly notice how much Threads mirrors Twitter in its layout. It’s like a cleaner version of Twitter with a familiar Instagram-ish feel. You have your Home feed with a line list of updates from accounts you follow. There’s a Search button, Post button, Like button, and Profile button to manage your personal details and account settings. Scroll up and down endlessly and watch the hours float by as you fall into a screen time trance.

You can like someone’s post, comment on it, share/send it, and Repost (Thread’s version of Retweet using a similar-looking opposing arrows icon). You can follow and unfollow people, mute them, hide, and even report.

Threads start a post

Threads has a 500-character limit for posts, which is more than the standard Twitter limit but less than the paid Twitter Blue tier. Similarly, videos are capped at a healthy five minutes. That’s more than Twitter’s standard 2 minutes and 20 seconds (Twitter Blue members can post longer videos).

There isn’t an ability to edit Threads after you post them and no Direct Message (DM) feature (yet). One thing Meta wants to do with Threads, however, is make it compatible with other apps. In doing so through ActivityPub, you could communicate with people who don’t have a Threads account and vice versa. It’s sort of like what WhatsApp and Signal have done for instant messaging between Android and iOS users on the two different smartphone platforms, whereby you can text to one another without using SMS, even if you’re in one mobile camp and your buddy is in the other.

What Does Twitter Have to Say?

Elon Musk
Steve Jurvetson, Wikimedia Commons

Not surprisingly, Twitter has been vocal about its issues with Threads. The company has threatened to sue Meta, according to Variety, calling Threads a “copycat app” and accusing Meta of hiring former Twitter employees to launch it. A lawyer from Twitter reportedly sent a cease-and-desist letter to Zuckerberg, saying the company has “serious concerns” over the alleged “systematic, willful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone says any suggestion that Twitter employees have worked on the app is false, and “just not a thing.” Elon Musk, who purchased Twitter for US$44 billion last year and has been making sweeping changes at the company, simply Tweeted in reply to someone that “competition is fine, cheating is not.”

Musk, however, has been making moves to anger Twitter users since he took over. From removing verified accounts to creating the current version of Twitter Blue, and most recently, imposing limits on how many posts you can read per day (he cites the reasoning as to “address extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation,”) Twitter users have been threatening to leave for some time now. In a sick sense of irony, both “Twitter Killer” and “Threads” are trending on Twitter.

Can You Delete Your Threads Account?

Threads reposting

If you try and decide you don’t want to buy into Threads, theoretically, you can deactivate your Threads account: go to Settings, Account, Deactivate Profile. But this is only a temporary solution. Your old posts, comments, and likes will still exist, but will be hidden until (or if) you decide to reactivate the profile.

If you want to wipe your profile clean, you would have to also delete your Instagram profile. Meta claims it is “working on” a way to allow users to delete Threads separately from Instagram. It’s likely in the company’s vested interest, however, not to permit this. And it’s probably (though I can’t verify this) something that can be easily done. But this option may only be implemented if there’s enough pushback from users who believe they should have the freedom to leave Threads if they so choose without removing their already established Instagram presences.

What’s It Like Using Threads?

Threads posts

I have been using Threads for the last 24 hours, and I can see its appeal. It’s simple and so far, seems to be fulfilling Meta’s desire to create a space for positive discourse. With that said, it has only been 48 hours+ since the service launched. It takes time for the hate, vitriol, negativity, false information, and “fake news,” to begin to disseminate, the trolls to rear their ugly heads, and the bots to appear. It takes even longer to try and curb that, and once it begins, it’s almost impossible to rein in. Already, in my first day, I have seen a post by someone saying they blocked their first person.

Should You Use Threads?

It’s easy to get sucked into Threads, but this is because it’s fresh. I only follow 106 accounts (so far) compared to the 690 I follow on Twitter (some have already coined the playful term “Thread Count” for your number of followers). The site isn’t as busy, the interface clean, and overall, it’s not overwhelming. That said, it’s easier to cut through noise when you haven’t yet opened the floodgates to it in the first place.

I admittedly haven’t used Twitter as much as I should in years. Like many other social sites, I was a big user at the height of its popularity, and slowly started posted less frequently, especially when trying to divide time among the growing number of other social sites like Facebook (as a Gen-Xer, I am one of the old fogies who still uses it!), Instagram, and LinkedIn. (For some, that includes TikTok, Snapchat, and others as well).

I might be furiously using and posting to Threads now. But how long until I get tired of that, too? Time will tell. For now, Threads is proving to be a viable challenger to Twitter at a time when that social platform is at its most volatile and vulnerable. Threads is weaving its way into the fabric of online social culture. Should we be able to wrap our heads around it, and a larger number of users decide that enough is enough and leave Twitter (though they’ll need an Instagram account if they don’t already have one to get on board with Threads), we might get tied up in this site, too. If there’s one thing Zuckerberg knows how to get right, at least in this particular instance, it’s timing.