Threads could cause real problems for Twitter

First impressions of Threads: can Meta do this? Is this not plagiarism somehow?

The app looks almost identical to Twitter. The character limit, the reposting, the feed. It’s all incredibly familiar.

Mark Zuckerberg claims millions of people have signed up in the first few hours. You should always be skeptical when a tech boss says how many users have signed up to a platform. But it does feel like a lot of people are already on it.

That’s partly because it’s connected to Instagram. If you are already on Instagram, you are given the option to “follow all” of your Instagram followers when you sign up.

The option gives you a ready-made follower list, but also means you’ll be likely to gain followers as your Instagram friends sign up.

This is clever from Mr. Zuckerberg, and why Big Tech companies have massive advantages over smaller ones.

Meta isn’t creating an app from scratch. It’s benefiting from its billion-plus Instagram followers that are giving it a massive shot in the arm.

Platforms like Bluesky and Mastodon didn’t have this luxury. They started with zero users.

But whether this is “fair” or not, Mr. Zuckerberg doesn’t care. He’s copied other apps before to great success (Reels is a clone of TikTok) and he’s happy to do so again.

Knowing the power of celebrity, Mr Zuckerberg has also utilized celebs on Instagram and managed to get some of them on Threads, like Shakira and Gordon Ramsay.

Mark Zuckerberg will be thrilled with the buzz around the app. When it comes to social media, it’s all about the network effect. The more people use the app, the better the app is.

When it comes to social media, the network effect can create a sort of tipping point. When so many of your friends or people you want to hear from are on a platform, you kind of feel you have to join.

It’s very, very difficult to create a network effect on a social media platform. But when it works, it really works. The reverse is also true, when communities leave a social media platform, they can do so quickly – and it can be devastating. Think Myspace or Bebo.

Let’s go to some of the problems with Threads, though. The biggest one I can see is that it has one feed, not two.

Twitter has a recommendations feed and an option just to see tweets from those you follow.

Threads has a feed that blends your followers and content it thinks you will want. That could get annoying.

It doesn’t seem to have desktop functionality yet – it doesn’t work well on your computer. That’s a shame.

There doesn’t seem to be any trending information, so it’s hard to see what’s going viral.

There isn’t a message function – something that Twitter does have.

And when it comes to verification, users can still buy their blue ticks for a monthly fee, just as you can with Twitter.

Although plenty of people have signed up, and it feels (sort of) buzzy, it’s also still far smaller than Twitter. Your posts won’t go as far or be seen by as many people (though of course, the app is only hours old).

Mark Zuckerberg described the app as an “initial version” – and that’s what it feels like. It does the basics well. But this is a no-thrills app right now.

That said, Meta’s boss will be over the moon with how this has gone so far. Considering the years of bad press he’s gotten over the years, he is reinventing himself as the adult in the room – the sensible tech billionaire who wants a friendly social media platform.

You can tell this has riled Elon Musk. “Thank goodness they’re running so sanely,” he tweeted sarcastically on Monday.

But if Mr Zuckerberg was nervous that disaffected Twitter uses would spurn Meta’s offer, so far, it looks like those fears were unfounded.

And if that is the case, with an app that works perfectly well, if not spectacularly, that could be a real problem for Mr Musk.

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