Threads app first impressions: The good, the bad, and yes, there's ugly too
Threads app is the newest social media offering by Meta, which is powered by Instagram. The platform has clocked 30 million users within 24 hours and is now perched at over 55 million. But just how good is this Twitter rival? Find out.
It has been a long time since social media space has seen a revolution. Back in the late 90s, messengers used to be the popular hangout spots for early adopters of the internet. Yahoo! Messenger, MSN, and AOL dominated the scene and people would spend hours in chatrooms talking to others about their interests. Alongside, interest-based forums also rose in popularity where people would create discussion boards and talk about their shared hobbies such as gardening, wood-crafting, or book reading. But they were very one-dimensional and there wasn't much you could do.
The first big revolution in social media space came with the launch of MySpace, Orkut, and Friendster in the early 2000s which allowed users to make profiles and interact at both individual as well as group levels. So, you had the best of both worlds, plus a way to share more about yourself. This was also the time when 4Chan and Skype came to the scene. Facebook was also getting started but we will get to that below (back in 2004 they were still just only available for Harvard University students).
The next social wave came in the late 2000s when platforms that we are more familiar with today, such as Twitter, the modern version of Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat, were launched. These platforms changed the way netizens perceived social media. It was not only a space where you went to discuss a topic for an hour or just checked up on your friends. These were extensive platforms geared towards engagement. You could now upload photos, post videos, play games (rest in peace Flash extension), and interact in a bunch of ways that were unique and quirky.
As the companies behind these platforms grew popular and registered 100s of millions of users, their focus moved from engagement to retention and revenue generation. As a result, while these platforms got big upgrades regularly, they were always within the framework of tried and tested social media tech strategies. With the notable exceptions of Discord in 2015 and TikTok in 2017, we have not really seen any new platforms threaten these late 2000s platforms.
But things are now changing, or at least appear to be changing. With new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence emerging, companies are now reimagining the social media experience where instead of putting the world inside a room and then figuring out how to make them interact, the focus is on creating different unique rooms where the existing population of the internet can enter and check out at will. Yes, we are talking about fediverse (for the layman, it is a decentralized social media experience where every user is a domain and they can join any social media platform using the database that rests within that domain). But while it is intriguing in theory, before July 6, 2023, this was not worthy of discussion as most new platforms were still fairly niche.
So what changed? The latest offering by Meta, an Instagram-powered Twitter-like app Threads has done something unique. It has acquired over 30 million users in a day, showcasing that fediverse is indeed possible as a concept. So, once it launched, I had to take a look and see what it was offering.
And this is what I found.
Threads' design and interface
Logging into Threads was easy. All you do is tap a few times to log in using your Instagram account, follow your friends from the platform and you're dropped to the home page. All your details are filled in using the data you provided to Instagram.
The first thing you are likely to notice is just how polished the app is, despite being new. If I may say, it is better than both Facebook and Instagram The overall interface is quite minimalist, and from fonts, and animations, to iconography, everything is modern and looks aesthetically fine. You also notice how fluidly you can move from one tab to another and from one page to the next.
There are unique animations for page reloading, posting, and following new users. On top of that, you also see new aesthetic elements such as tiny knots at the margin of the threads whenever you repost.
But apart from this, the rest of it is sadly very similar to Twitter. You have a similar home page where you can see everyone's posts. You can like, comment, or repost them. There is a new addition of share, that allows you to share the post cross-platform on either Facebook or Instagram stories.
Commenting on a post creates a thread that is similar in appearance to Twitter, liking or reposting them works just like how it does on Twitter. Even the profile view is pretty much the same — there is a Threads tab for your posts and Replies for the comments. There is no tab for Media, but it is likely to be added soon.
There is a ‘follow' tab, which is more reminiscent of Instagram, and it works the same as well. You can add or remove requests (if you are a private profile).
Overall, while Threads does not reinvent the wheel, it does a good enough job to create a ‘Twitter-like' experience that somehow feels richer and more immersive.
It's a new app so at-launch features are quite basic but it does the job it is intended to do. You get a text-based platform that is inspired by Twitter and can do most of the things Twitter can. You can post text or photos, report, reply, create threads, and like them. You can also follow or send follow requests (if the profile is private) and you can accept or reject them in a separate tab.
Apart from that, there are some ecosystem features as well. You can directly share the posts to Facebook and Instagram stories. And on profile, there is an Instagram icon on the profile, that takes you directly to the person's Instagram profile.
And we have to address the fediverse feature, although it is not active at the moment. While joining the platform, you get a message that says the decentralized features will be added soon. This means soon, you can use your domain on Threads (your username along with a dot net) and then you can go to any other decentralized app (such as Mastodon) and begin using it seamlessly.
These are basic features and there is definitely a lot of room for improvement. But given the fact that on launch, the major responsibility is to present an app that can handle heavy traffic without crashing and still perform the basic tasks, it is not really a big issue.
Threads app: The big misses
While it may not be a big issue, missing features deserve to be highlighted for any new user that is planning to join the platform. As of writing this, there is no separate tab on your profile to view media, like you have on Twitter. Similarly, there is no option to send DMs, which limits one-to-one interaction significantly. There is no trends section either and no explore tab, so finding new users or new content is absolutely difficult.
The algorithm of the platform is also very nascent. If you make a few posts with certain keywords, the recommendations suddenly begin showing you that content. This is not as obvious or in the face of the other Meta platforms.
Finally, there does not seem to be any focus on hosting Reels-like video content, something Twitter is pushing for heavily. And lastly, we still await the fediverse features, that can make or break the platform.
Threads app: Verdict
I'll have to be honest, I'm pretty torn on Threads. In my lifetime, from Orkut, Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter to Instagram, I have joined many new social media platforms during their early days. And I have never seen a social media platform that was as polished or worked as fluidly. I am also a fan of the interface and minimalist design.
However, ultimately, it is a Twitter clone. It works like Twitter and it gives you the same features as Twitter. Like Instagram or Facebook, it does not have any USP of its own and that is the big ugly part. There is no differentiation at all. Threads does not stand apart. And that is what was common to all the social media apps that were successful. Rest failed.
Of course, these are early days and we will have to reserve our opinions till the fediverse features come out. There can also be new features added in the days to come.
But right now, unless you are someone who is tired of the erratic policy changes on Twitter or are a big fan of camp Meta, I do not see why anyone would want to be on a platform that offers the same user base as Instagram and the same features of Twitter. Decentralization is a revolutionary technology, but it is a nightmare to sell to people who are just looking for a good time online.