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Meta revives old tactics and platforms with latest launch “Threads” | Op-ed

The latest launch within the social media sphere, Meta’s new platform, Threads, is storming the internet in a whirlwind of excitement, dread, curiosity, and caution

By: Christine Salzmann

Thu, Jul. 6, 2023

The latest launch within the social media sphere, Meta’s new platform, Threads, is storming the internet in a whirlwind of excitement, dread, curiosity, and caution as the new Twitter clone promises a new space away from Elon Musk’s Twitter madness.

Powered by Instagram, Threads arrives on the scene with a potential audience of billions who already use the photo and video-sharing app – unlike other Twitter rivals such as Mastodon and Bluesky which, despite having been live for longer, have been unable to grow beyond single-digit millions of users.


Cloning to success

With its launch on the 5th of July, Meta once again revives its strategy of cloning popular rival platforms – most famously its Instagram/Facebook/WhatsApp stories and AR filters from Snapchat, Facebook Gaming from Twitch, and Reels from the now Twitter-owned Vine.

Visually, the app looks and functions strikingly similar to early Twitter, and users are taking note. During the first hours of the app’s launch, new users have compared it to the former by sharing memes, late-night rants, and other familiar Twitter behavior.

Despite this, Meta is denying it is simply a clone. “Threads is a new app that’s focused on text and dialogue. And the way that we think about this is we’re modeling it after what Instagram has done for photo and video,” said Connor Hayes, a Meta product vice president.

Other than being sold as being centered on text, Threads also has several features that appear in both Instagram and Twitter such as photo sharing, users being able to tag another using the @ symbol, replying or commenting, as well as reposting a “thread”.

While many may claim Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg is simply copying or “stealing,” the founder and CEO has been able to, time and time again, successfully integrate rival platforms’ most popular features into his own platforms. At times, overwhelmingly so that those same platforms begin losing their “top of mind” presence.

Zuckerberg is most likely banking on Twitter’s already disgruntled user base. Since the Tesla CEO took over Twitter late last year, Musk’s tenure has been turbulent, with headlines upon headlines of technical issues, removing – and subsequently reviving – its blue-check mark and introducing new verification policies alongside a paid subscription, with users and advertisers seemingly criticizing every new change.

The latest of which was introduced last Saturday, Musk limiting how many posts users could see, saying he wants to combat “extreme levels of data scraping”.

Threads also comes with security concerns, as many still remember Meta platforms’ weak data protection services and protocols; remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where personal data belonging to millions of Facebook users was collected without their consent and was sold by a third party to advertisers?

Potential users in the European Union, one of Meta’s heaviest cybersecurity critics, currently do not have access to the new app. This may be due to the EU’s current, and incoming, strict policies on user data collection, storage, and usage.


Users flock to new platforms, but do they truly survive?

While the internet, and even international media outlets, call Threads the “Twitter Killer,” there is still a long journey ahead for the platform and an even longer rotating list of now-obscure social media platforms that have previously aimed to overtake the social media scene’s giants.

Vero, which was championed as “the one” only a few years ago, is an ad-free social media app that was expected to rival Instagram, with some users claiming that the Meta platform had forgotten its photography roots and that Vero would rekindle the passion within the social media sphere. To date, Vero has around 6.5 million users, a far cry from Instagram’s 168.6 million active Instagram users in the USA alone.

Another obscure app? Threads itself.

Back in 2019, Meta, at the time still Facebook, introduced Threads as a "standalone app designed with privacy, speed, and your close connections in mind. You can share photos, videos, messages, Stories, and more with your Instagram close friends list. You are in control of who can reach you on Threads, and you can customize the experience around the people who matter most."

Meta then announced it was ditching the app, confirming to TechCrunch at the time that all support for the app would be shut down by December 2021. The company announced that it was closing Threads as many of its main features had already rolled out or were being rolled out to Instagram.

Today, Meta has refurbished the application, launching it once more but now as its potential answer to the growing number of Twitter users and businesses looking for an alternative but are cautious about, essentially, starting from scratch on a new app.

Unlike other social media platforms that have popped up over the years, Threads has the significant advantages of being backed by a highly-successful parent company and its integration with Instagram. However, only time will tell whether Meta will either repeat its own history or expand its already long list of accomplishments and ever-successful platforms.