Zuckerberg’s Threads is no threat to X/Twitter because it offers nothing new to the social media landscape
On July 5th, Mark Zuckerberg launched the Twitter (now ‘X’) clone Threads seemingly as a stab at X/Twitter’s new owner and his nemesis Elon Musk. I can only surmise Zuckerberg saw X/Twitter as a “sinking ship” that he could take advantage of.
Backstory: 15 years ago, Zuckerberg wanted X/Twitter. He apparently tried purchasing the bird app several times. Then, he got sidetracked acquiring and developing other products, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and the Metaverse.
Threads’ name refers directly to X/Twitter, so it should ring a bell. When you string tweets together, you create a thread. Zuckerberg wants Threads to be the next X/Twitter.
The Facebook founder is one of many to try to unseat Twitter. When Musk took over X/Twitter, Mastodon briefly gained popularity. However, its popularity was short-lived, and Mastodon Daily Active Users (DAU) gradually declined. Then there is India’s Koo, introduced in March 2020. Koo still makes some noise in some parts of the world, but its DAU hovers around four million, while X/Twitter’s DAU is 237.8 million. Spoutible is perhaps the cleanest equivalent to X/Twitter, but it has yet to create buzz. Additionally, there is Bluesky, backed by ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey; however, the reviews have been lukewarm.
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The pattern is always the same. A new social media app (e.g., Counter Social, Spill, Post, Cohost) is released and initially makes a splash. Everyone is excited, hoping the new app will challenge Twitter, but the hype soon fades. So far, no app has achieved the critical mass needed to lure users away from X/Twitter. Kudos to Threads for having been able to suck in over 100 million sign-ups in its first week by building on people’s existing Instagram networks.
Opinionated “social media experts” are asking: Will Threads overtake Twitter as the leader in social text-based apps?
The question I have is: Why does Threads exist?
Threads lacks new features, offers no competitive advantages, and was launched half-baked, missing many features that users are familiar with elsewhere, such as, unbelievably, hashtags.
Threads not being a game changer is one reason it has, so far, failed to live up to its initial promise that it would replace X/Twitter. For all intents and purposes, Threads is identical to all other social media platforms; therefore, X/Twitter users are not compelled to switch to it. Most of all, it is bland, lacking the angry, toxic posts that attract people to social media platforms.
Elon Musk once said: “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram.”
A large segment of the population seems to believe they benefit – how is open for debate – in some way from the toxic drama that social media provides. For many people, it feels good to tear people down. Where else can you sit at home anonymously judging strangers as racists, homophobes, right-wingers, or lefties? Insulting strangers under the guise of “free speech” gives many people an endorphin rush that comes with believing they are morally superior and convincing others of their rightness.
Another reason people use X/Twitter is to get news. An X/Twitter survey found that 55 percent of users get their news from X/Twitter. Since its inception, X/Twitter has been “the place” for real-time updates whenever the good, bad, and ugly occur. Michael Jackson’s death, Seal Team Six killing Osama bin Laden, the Arab Spring: all first broke on X/Twitter.
News breaks on X/Twitter. Opposing cultures, values, and beliefs rub hard against each other on X/Twitter. Ego-stroking virtue-signalling posts are prevalent. You do not go to X/Twitter to see what your family and friends are up to.
As Zuckerberg intended, Threads is a playful and pleasant bubble. This has resulted in Thread users being presented with observations that are not more controversial than “Cats make better companions than dogs,” “Nobody truly likes avocados,” and brands and celebrities shamelessly promoting themselves. Threads wears X/Twitter’s skin minus its teeth; hence, it delivers a surface-level experience that steers clear of controversy, and that’s a big mistake!
Instagram, Threads lifeline, CEO Adam Mosseri has said Threads wants to draw in users who want a less “angry” place for conversations. For most people, this sounds boring. An additional head-scratcher: While news and politics are not censored on Threads, the platform does not actively court these topics. Zuckerberg seems to have forgotten why people spend hours scrolling through their feeds.
The ideological diversity of X/Twitter’s user base, coupled with its rage-stoking algorithm, creates a sense of importance that is hard to resist. When you post on X/Twitter, you are part of “the discourse” – in the thick of things – participating, for the most part, anonymously in an ongoing discussion that reflects our collective anger against the government, wokeism and political correctness. Creating an anonymous account allows you to express your true opinions without fear of repercussions, which, while cowardly, is understandable.
X/Twitter is floundering, but it is far from dying. The only way Threads or any other app can overtake X/Twitter is if people let go of it. For people to let go of X/Twitter, it must die first, and only Elon Musk can do that.
Nick Kossovan is the Customer Service Professionals Network’s Social Media Director.
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