Threads: Instagram owner launches Twitter-like app

July 5, 2023  –Instagram-owner Meta has launched its Threads app, which experts say could attract Twitter users unhappy with recent changes to the platform.

The app is now available to download in over 100 countries including the UK, but not yet in the European Union because of regulatory concerns.

Users can create posts of up to 500 characters, and many features are similar to those found on Twitter.

But rivals have criticised the amount of data it may collect.

Meta calls the new app an “initial version”, with extra features planned including the ability to interact with people on some other social media apps like Mastodon.

“Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and expand that to text,” the firm says.

Despite Threads being a standalone app, users will log in using an Instagram account. Their Instagram username will carry over, but there is an option to customize their profile specifically for Threads.

Users will also be able to choose to follow the same accounts they do on Instagram, Meta says.

However, it is not yet clear whether disaffected Twitter users will want to move over to the Meta-run platform.

Meta whistleblower Frances Haugen said last year that the company had put “profits over safety” and criticised how the platform was moderated.

The company was also rocked by a scandal in which it allowed third parties, including the British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, to access Facebook users’ personal data.

In an apparent reference to this controversial past, Twitter owner Elon Musk joked on Monday “thank goodness they’re so sanely run”.

There are several other Twitter alternatives available, such as Bluesky and Mastodon.

However, Threads has a significant advantage because it is connected to Instagram, and the hundreds of millions of users already on that platform.

How does Threads work?

On Threads, we are told that posts can “easily” be shared between the two apps and can include links, photos, and videos of up to five minutes in length.

Users will have a feed of posts, which Meta calls “threads”, from people they follow and recommended content.

They will be able to control who can “mention” them and filter out replies to posts that contain specific words.

Unfollowing, blocking, restricting or reporting other profiles will also be possible, and any accounts users block on Instagram will automatically be blocked on Threads.

But while Meta stresses the ties to Instagram, media coverage has focused on its similarity to Twitter, with some calling the app a “Twitter killer”.

Meta says it takes “inspiration” from other products, although others put it less kindly. The Stories capability on Facebook resembles a Snapchat feature, and Reels on Instagram is unmistakably similar to TikTok.

Drew Benvie, chief executive of social media consultancy Battenhall, told BBC News that Threads looked a lot like Twitter: “The most obvious is that it’s text-first, so users will be able to add photos, and comment on each other’s posts.

The length of the post looks like it’s going to be roughly the length of Twitter as well. So a lot like Twitter”.

Many commentators have suggested that it’s no coincidence the app has launched amid upheavals at Twitter.

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