Threads: A guide to the new 'killer' app
Social media is constantly changing and evolving. Last week, Meta, parent company of social media giants Instagram and Facebook, brought out a new product aimed at directly competing with Twitter.
Described by Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Threads and Meta, as “...focusing on kindness and making this a friendly place,” Threads seeks to capitalise on concerns that Twitter, which has around 250 million users, has become unsuitable for many advertisers and users.
Threads was launched to 100 countries on July 5 as a direct competitor to Twitter. It immediately gained a large number of users. By July 7, after just 48 hours, Zuckerberg announced on his Threads account that the user total had reached 70 million. This makes Threads the fastest downloaded app ever.
Threads is linked to Instagram and users need an Instagram account to log in. However, users who already have an Instagram account can keep the same username, password, and account name (although they can edit their bio to be unique to Threads). Users can also transfer over the accounts they follow on Instagram to their Threads account.
Those who want to try Threads but don't already have an Instagram account will need to open one first.
Once signed up, you can follow the same people they do on Instagram, as well as new people. Verified Instagram accounts are automatically verified on Threads. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that if you ever want to delete your Threads account, you will also need to delete your Instagram account. To avoid this, you can deactivate Threads, which will hide your profile, posts, and comments without deleting the account.
Threads is available for download on iOS and Android devices.
To download Threads, visit the App Store or Google Play Store. On the store, search for Threads, then click the download button when you find it.
To install, simply follow the prompts, as with other apps.
The next step is to log in to Threads. Here is a brief rundown of how to do this:
- Launch the Threads App.
- Select the Instagram profile you want to use for your Thread account.
- Next, fill out your bio, and any links you want to show on your Threads profile. Or, you can also just click 'Import from Instagram' to use the information from your Instagram profile.
- Set your profile to public or private.
- You can choose to follow the same accounts you follow on Instagram. You can do this one-by-one or, to follow all the same accounts you follow on Instagram, simply hit 'Follow all'.
- The last page gives you information about Threads and future plans.
- When you are finished with the above processes, tap 'Join Threads'.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, "We hope to take what Instagram does best and create a new experience around text, ideas, and discussing what's on your mind."
In fact, Threads offer a service that works similarly to Twitter. Obvious similarities include that both have newsfeeds, use heart-shaped symbols to 'like' content, and offer the ability to repost. You will need to get used to some different wording — instead of tweets, posts are called 'threads' and instead of retweeting, you 'repost'.
Instead of 280 characters, as on Twitter, threads can be up to 500 characters long, and you can post videos of up to five minutes in length. Threads can also be shared directly to Instagram Stories (as well as shared as a link on other platforms).
At the bottom in the navigation bar you can find: home, search, new thread, activity and profile:
- Home is for your timeline. This is where you can like, leave a comment, repost, and share posts.
- Search allows you to recommend profiles and search for other accounts.
- New Thread is where you create posts. You can also add links, photos and videos.
- Activity allows you to see, well, your activity. This includes who you recently followed, who recently followed you, replies to your posts, etc.
- Profile lets you view your Threads profile, including your bio, followers, links, replies, etc.
To adjust the settings, go to the profile section and click on the globe at the top-left, or the two-dash icon on the top-right. You will see notifications, privacy and account:
- Notification allows you to pause or turn off push notifications for threads and replies.
- Privacy allows you to set your profile to private, choose who mentions you, mute accounts, and hide particular words and phrases. You can also block profiles and hide likes. Keep in mind that if you change any of the settings in Threads, the changes will also apply to Instagram.
- In Accounts, you can take actions such as deactivating your profile, changing your password, and setting up two factor authentication (which applies to both Threads and Instagram).
Maximizing your experience
With the right tips, you can maximize your Threads experience. Here is a brief list for efficient messaging, content sharing, and engagement on Threads:
- Follow only accounts you find engaging to prevent a cluster of unnecessary content on your feed.
- Customize your notification experience.
- Take breaks from the Threads app, as with any other social media app.
- Maximize the reach of your Threads account by coordinating it with your Instagram account.
- If you want to keep your personal life confidential, set your profile to private. You can also use tools in Settings to block any content you find offensive or inappropriate.
Threads is not yet available for download in the European Union, as Meta has not yet worked out how the new app will comply with the EU’s tougher social media regulatory standards.
The EU’s new competition rules governing how large online platforms use their market power are set out in the Digital Markets Act.
The European Commission is currently discussing these new regulations with Meta and other social media companies but is not expected to offer more guidance until September.
However, even then, Threads may not be able to meet the EU's strict privacy requirements. This is because the app imports personal data from Instagram, including health and financial information, browsing histories, location, purchases, contacts, search history and advertising information.
This sharing of data between social media platforms is barred under EU law and creates what some have referred to as a "privacy nightmare".
Even so, some users in Europe, reportedly including French media companies Le Monde and Agence France-Presse, have found a way to download the app anyway, by connecting to the US App Store (for iPhone users) or using an Android package kit, which lets Android users download apps manually.
Users from abroad who use Threads can also continue to use it when visiting the EU.
There has already been much discussion as to whether Threads could be the final nail in Twitters' coffin. Twitter itself may be worried about this, the company has threatened to sue Meta over what Twitter sees as unlawful appropriation of its trade secrets and intellectual property.
Given the high initial interest in Threads, it certainly appears there is an audience hungry for an alternative to Twitter. Threads also offers stricter content controls than Twitter, in a bid to establish it as a kinder place.
The link with Instagram, and its estimated 1 billion-plus users, may also allow Threads to turn into what Meta hopes will be “a positive and creative venue for your ideas”.
However, Threads is far from being fully fledged, and the people at Meta know this. Many features, like hashtags and in-app messages, are still on the way, along with chronological and following feed options, web interface, multi-account options, graph syncing — and advertising.
In the future, Threads also plans to work with the open social networking protocol ActivityPub to provide users the option to stop using Threads and transfer their content to another service.
The company says that their ultimate vision is, "that people using compatible apps will be able to follow and interact with people on Threads without having a Threads account, and vice versa, ushering in a new era of diverse and interconnected networks."
In fact, it is this interoperability that could eventually be the real 'killer app'.
Twitter killer or not, Threads is already on track to becoming one of the biggest social media apps on the market. However, for now, Threads is more of a Twitter clone, and whether it eventually manages to land a killer blow on Twitter may eventually depend on which service can adapt the fastest. Only time will tell how this will pan out.