Threads has launched to much fanfare, but is it any good? A first impression by a seasoned Twitter user.
One In A Million
Are you one of the 100 million? What I mean to ask is: Have you tried Threads yet?
Following the initial wave and hype that lead sixty million tech aficionados or other curious people to sign up, I also felt the urge to see for myself what the fuss is all about. And so I did.
The first surprise came when I looked for Threads on the App Store and the first result that showed up was a four-year-old application with a rather mediocre score from reviews. Looking a little closer, I discovered that this app was not affiliated with Instagram, which made it quite clear that I had come across and entirely different products. Shortly after though, I found the one I was looking for, and after a very brief period of waiting during the download, thanks to the wonders of 5G, I open a Threads by Instagram for the first time. Registration is surprisingly easy only at first sight but since this is another Meta product it would have been foolish not to make good use of the existing billions of instagram users and Mark Zuckerberg is many things but not stupid.
Following the golden rules of seamless integration to achieve maximum success, I found myself in front of an interface that is rather similar to Twitter. Given that this is exactly the rival it tries to emulate, it does not come as a surprise though, particularly since Zuckerberg made no secret of trying to sway as many Twitter users as possible to switch sides.
The Imitation Game
Now, you could say that imitation deserves no respect as only true innovation does. Yet, that would also mean that much of Apple’s success story should be regarded as such: the genius of Steve Jobs was to pick existing things up and make them better. That and brilliant marketing work, of course. Maybe there is some beauty in imitation then, especially if it can be found in the execution, I suppose.
And then there is Musk’s half veiled threat of legal actions accusing Meta of stealing trade secrets. Not through the use of some James Bond like industry espionage but simply by hiring enough expertise in the form of former Twitter employees that have left the company by their own accord or fired by the company’s new CEO after the takeover. Naturally, that doesn’t justify stealing trade secrets as is claimed by Musk. It underlines the irony of the whole story however.
A User Experience
Getting back to my own user experience. Following the smooth registration including the creation of my new Threads profile identical to my bio on Instagram, I started getting myself acquainted with its features.
While it is remarkably similar to Twitter there are a couple of differences, some smaller, some more significant. To start with you can write posts as long as 500 characters as opposed to Twitter’s 280. While at first you might think this is great, I’m not entirely sure it’s actually useful. I embraced the extension from the initial Twitter limit from a mere 120 characters, but have since seldomly found myself restricted, so it seems they had hit the sweet spot. If you really need to go beyond that another medium might be the better choice like posting on LinkedIn or Medium if you don’t believe in old school blogs like this one…
Your videos can also be more than twice as long as on Twitter but again another outlet might be the better choice, so these features look a little bit like Zuckerberg is not taking on Twitter alone.
Now for the things that matter (at least to me): unlike Twitter or other platforms so far Threads does not believe in hashtags, at least for the time being. To make matters worse, the search function seems to let you search for people/accounts only to scroll through their threads hoping you might find some useful information. Since there is no limitation to the number of posts you can (unlike the recent change introduced to Twitter to thwart those evil AI data miners), you might eventually succeed, but it could take you some time.
I proceeded to write my first post and since I was joining from my instagram account that has a strong focus on wine, I chose a relevant topic. One week on the results are devastating if I had joined with the belief I might gather a quick following as I didn’t pick up a single like and without other means of measuring (no data regarding impressions or engagement available), I must take this as a hint that it’s either down to a poor choice on my end or a lack of popularity in general, though I still hope that limited features played a role, too. Hope springs eternal.
Work in Progress
Zuckerberg has said that Threads is work in progress. He has also promised already a number of new features coming soon, including a proper search function. Will it eventually work to topple Twitter?
Over the weekend I read an article that gave it a good chance of succeeding. But what would define success in this context? Total annihilation pf its competitor similar to what Google did to other search engines? Or simply establishing just another social media platform alongside the many that exist already. I’m already spoiled for choice, so unless there is some real value on the horizon I might stick with Twitter for the time being.