Threads (Instagram)

What Is Threads?

Threads is a social media app designed by Meta’s Instagram team that allows users to post text, photos, and videos in real time. Posts are limited to 500 characters in length, and videos can be posted up to 5 minutes in length. 


Over 100 million users joined Threads in just 5 days from the app’s release in July 2023. While the number of active users has since dropped, the application has attracted significant interest. 

It’s worth noting that an old version of Threads was released back in 2019 as a “camera-first messaging app” before it was taken down and re-released in its current form as a platform for public conversations. 

How Does Threads Work?

Users can log into Threads through their Instagram account. Each Threads account has the same username and verification as the user’s Instagram. Whenever a user joins the app, they are given the option to follow the same accounts as their Instagram profile. 

Profiles are customizable, and users can control whether users can mention or reply to their posts. There is also the option to filter out certain words in replies and the ability to block, restrict or report other users’ profiles. Users under 16 are automatically assigned a private profile when they sign up. 

If profiles were previously blocked on Instagram, then they will be automatically blocked on Threads. Likewise, features like AI-generated image descriptions and screen readers can also be used. 

There are a number of responses that users can take to others’ posts. These include: 

  • Heart icon: Like a user’s post 
  • Quote icon: Reply to a user’s thread 
  • Repost icon: Repost a post on your profile 
  • Paper airplane icon: Share the post on another platform 

Meta’s Plans for the Future: Interoperability

Meta plans to develop Threads further by making it compatible with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) open social networking protocol, ActivityPub. ActivityPub is a decentralized protocol that’s designed to make social media apps interoperable. 

As a result, adding ActivityPub compatibility to Threads would make it interoperable with other applications that use the protocol, such as popular platforms like Mastodon and WordPress

In practice, cross-app interoperability would mean that users on compatible apps would be able to interact with Threads users without having to have a Threads account. 

This would give users more flexibility not just over the audience their content reaches but also freedom to move from one app to another. 

Threads vs. Twitter

Out of all existing social media apps, Threads is most often compared to Twitter. Threads and Twitter are similar in the sense that they both enable users to make text-based posts, images, and videos to reach their users.

Although, it’s important to highlight that Threads allows users to make posts of 500 characters in length and videos of 5 minutes in length compared to Twitter’s limit of 280 characters and 2 minutes and 20 seconds in video length (for non-Twitter Blue users). 

However, Meta has argued that focusing on building an open social community is the key differentiator between the two. 

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, explained in a Threads post:

 “The goal isn’t to replace Twitter. The goal is to create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are interested in a less angry place for conversations, but not all of Twitter.” 

Mosseri also suggested that Meta wouldn’t be doing anything to encourage politics and news content on the platform, which, when taken with the comments above, suggests the organization is looking to move away from the toxicity that social media sites like Twitter, in particular, have been criticized for in the past. 

Early Challenges: UX, Scams, Verification, and Account Deletion

Although many users have downloaded Threads, there are some significant barriers on the road to adoption. Not only has the app been lambasted for offering a poor user experience (UX) with a lack of features, but it’s also being exploited by scammers. 

Cybersecurity vendor Kaspersky has warned that fraudsters are exploiting the launch of Threads with phishing scams that use a false version of the app to try and trick users into entering their login credentials and payment data. 

At the same time, Threads has faced criticism due to its Meta Verified verification system enabling users to purchase blue ticks and providing an opportunity for malicious actors to spread misinformation and other harmful content. 

Lastly, there’s no way for users to delete their accounts without also deleting Instagram. While users can deactivate their Threads profile to prevent posts and responses to other posts from being displayed, they can’t remove their user data entirely. 

The Bottom Line: Is Threads The Twitter Killer?

While it’s too early to call Threads the “Twitter Killer,” at the very least, it’s well-placed to appeal to users and communities that are disgruntled with Twitter and the toxicity experienced by many users on the site. 

If Meta manages to add ActivityPub compatibility and interoperability with other social media apps, then it has the potential to appeal to a much broader user base. 


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Tim Keary

Since January 2017 Tim Keary has been a freelance technology writer and reporter covering enterprise technology and cybersecurity.