Here’s everything you need to know about Meta’s ‘sanely run’ Twitter alternative – the latest development in a clownish billionaire feud
On June 21, Elon Musk tweeted that he would be “up for” a cage fight with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, following the latter’s announcement of a “Twitter rival” named Threads. But then – if the idea of two pasty tech billionaires training to beat each other up wasn’t pathetic enough – the challenge was seemingly cancelled as quickly as it began. Why? Because Elon’s mum said he wasn’t allowed. Rumours that she also rescinded his iPad privileges are yet to be confirmed.
While the possibility of a physical fight still hangs in the balance, though, Musk and Zuck are poised to clash in a much bigger (and more costly) battle on Thursday, with the public release of Threads. On app stores, the text-based conversation app is already available to pre-order, with screenshots showing a similar format to Twitter, as well as interconnectivity with other Meta apps, like Instagram.
Could this really be the final death knell for Twitter, which has undergone drastic transformations – and more than its fair share of controversy – since Musk took over in late 2022? As the countdown to the Threads release ticks down, here’s what you need to know.
WHAT IS THREADS, EXACTLY?
Threads has essentially been positioned as an alternative to Twitter, building on Zuckerberg’s long history of ripping off other apps’ formats (although, to be fair, this is a pretty common practice among most social media companies). Labelled “an Instagram app”, it will also allow users to import their existing followers from Meta’s image-sharing platform, essentially making it a text-based extension of your Insta feed.
WHY DOES THE WORLD NEED A TWITTER ALTERNATIVE?
In case you haven’t noticed, Twitter has been a chaotic hellscape (even more so than usual) since Elon’s $44 billion takeover. Hate speech has surged amid the billionaire’s efforts to make the platform a bastion of “free speech”, advertisers have fled en masse, and the introduction of a fee for blue checks has sparked a war between non-fee-paying users and the most cringeworthy posters on the planet.
Most recently, Twitter has also sparked controversy with its decision to limit the amount of tweets any given user can read, in a bid to combat the scraping of data that is used to train AI models. Arguably, this presented an invaluable opportunity for chronically online users to have a break and touch grass, but it’s also probably not a great sign for the company itself.
In what seems like a direct dig at the chaos of Twitter under Musk, Meta’s chief product officer Chris Cox has described Threads as a “sanely run” alternative.
WHAT HAPPENED TO BLUESKY AND MASTODON?
As users expressed increasing dissatisfaction with Twitter after it changed hands, several competitors emerged, looking to capitalise on those seeking asylum from Elon Musk fanboys. One of the first was the decentralised social network Mastodon, with Bluesky – an invite-only startup backed by Jack Dorsey – also gaining popularity. Both rival social media platforms have spiked in popularity thanks to Twitter’s recent rate limits, reporting record high traffic. That being said, they’re still significantly smaller than Twitter, which maintains hundreds of millions of daily users.
Could Threads change this? Well, maybe. Unlike platforms like Bluesky or Mastodon, Threads won’t be starting from the ground up; thanks to its integration with Instagram, users will already have a built-in network of friends and/or fans, making the switch a much more attractive prospect. Users seemingly won’t even have to make new login details.
BUT IT’S GOING TO STEAL OUR DATA, RIGHT?
It’s long been common knowledge that Meta’s various apps are basically parts of one big data-harvesting machine. Will Threads be any different? To put it simply: No. To go into more detail, the app store listing explains that Threads may collect data related to health, finances, purchases, location, contact information, browsing history, “sensitive” topics, and more, and link it to your identity. Those tweets that you release from your drafts in moments of poor judgement? If you’re posting them to Threads instead, you might want to stop and think a moment.
WHAT DOES TWITTER THINK?
Unfortunately, no one really knows Twitter’s official line on Threads, since it no longer has a press department, and messaging the former email-only returns an auto-response containing a poo emoji. Musk himself, however, seems slightly shaken. On July 4, the billionaire took a break from training with a host of professional fighters and sun-starved podcasters (so maybe the fight is still on) to take a jab at Threads ahead of its release, tweeting: “Thank goodness they’re so sanely run.”