Better Threads than dead

Threads has gone global by finally launching in the EU, and is beginning to add ActivityPub, connecting it to the Mastodon world. Could it be winning?

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Oh, blast it. We're going to have to talk about Threads, Meta’s Twitter clone, aren't we? I admit it, I’ve been avoiding it, kinda hoping it turned into one of the company's many abandoned projects. I could afford to wait until it proved it had established itself, and it became truly global. And that’s now happened.

Dammit.

Until recently, for a big chunk of my readers, it wasn’t an option because it wasn’t available in the EU. Well, as of yesterday, that’s changed. It’s now available globally. And that means publishers need to take another look at it.

(First Brexit benefit found: earlier access to Threads…)

Why? Well, because it appears that Threads may well be leading the way in the post-Twitter diaspora. And much as it makes me uncomfortable seeing more power accrue to Meta, it seems to be in the best position to capitalise on the slow collapse of X. We really need to take it seriously.

Threads is winning

Earlier on today, John Gruber posted an interesting bit of information about the Threads app and its download levels: it’s fourth in the Apple App Store’s top 100 most popular free apps.

Gruber:

On today’s list of top free apps on the App Store — across all categories aside from games — Threads is #2 and X is (scrolls, scrolls, scrolls…) #63. TikTok and Instagram are in the top 10 and Facebook’s blue app for the elderly remains at #16.

Now, we need to acknowledge that Threads is a relatively new app, and so has an advantage in these lists: many people have the other, older apps on their phones already. But, as Gruber points out, this is about momentum and Threads seems to have it.

The other competitors — Bluesky and Mastodon — are nowhere near it in the download stakes:

It brings me no joy to report this, but unless I scrolled past one, there are no Mastodon clients in the top 200 free apps, even looking specifically within the “social networking” category, on either the App Store or Play Store. Even Bluesky makes these lists (#80 on the App Store; #49 on Play Store).

Currently, in the battle to replace Melon Husk’s shambling remains of Twitter, Threads is pretty clearly in the lead.

Threads will play nice with Mastodon

The other news from Threads HQ is more geeky, but equally interesting: ActivityPub support is underway.


Post by @zuck
View on Threads

“What the hell is ActivityPub?” you’re probably asking. Well, it’s the underlying protocol that Mastodon is built on. Think of it as a protocol for social networking in the same way that SMTP is a protocol for email, and HTTP is a protocol for the web. Many different apps can use it, and talk to each other, as long as they all use the same protocol.

That’s how Mastodon works: plenty of different servers, running the same software, talking to each other via ActivityPub. As and when ActivityPub is released, Threads becomes, overnight, the biggest single Mastodon instance, as these servers are called. You’ll be able to follow Threads users if you’re on Mastodon (for example, I’ll be @adders@threads.net). If you have a Mastodon account, you call follow Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, already at @mosseri@threads.net.

And, eventually, you will be able to follow Mastodon users via Threads, as Mosseri makes clear.


Post by @mosseri
View on Threads

Just don’t expect that bit soon.

Threads will become the mainstream version of a federated social protocol, with the existing Mastodon world as a geeky addendum. This changes the game, and will make it very hard for other competitors like Bluesky to get traction. And while that’s good for the federated internet, it’s not completely good news, is it?

Threads just consolidates Meta’s power

For a long time, Meta has dominated social networking, owning Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. But that’s been balanced by other competition, not least the “big four”:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • TikTok
  • Pinterest

Arguably, YouTube and Reddit could count, too. But Threads winning the battle to replace Twitter effectively moves another element of the social aspects of the internet into Meta’s hands. And that consolidation of power is not a good thing.

Now, let’s be honest: that’s not necessarily our battle to fight. If we want to reach our audience, we have to go where they’ve gone. And if people choose Threads, then, well, off to Threads we go.

Summary

So, what am I actually saying here?

  • Threads looks like it’s hitting a critical mass
  • Once the network effect kicks in on the platform, it will be difficult to dislodge
  • With the EU now included, it’s worth you doing regular checks to see if the sorts of people you’re trying to reach are there.

Yes, Threads has just become something you either need to have a strategy for — or need to know why you don’t need one right now.

On Threads? Let’s connect

An adder wrapped around a large spool of thread.
Midjourney's interpretation of @adders on Threads…

You can follow me over on Threads as, of course, @adders. I’ll be more active there now the EU is part of the party.

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Adam Tinworth Twitter

Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 25. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.

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