Threads: early impressions

The new social media platform from Meta, Threads, has burst onto the scene like Micah Richards in hot-coral spandex. You can't have missed it. I have thoughts.

It's not like Twitter

People say it's just like Twitter. Elon says it's just like Twitter. Threads may look like Twitter, but it isn't Twitter. Not Twitter of yore, and not Twitter of now. It's its own thing. And we don't know what that thing is yet.

Twitter of the early days had a timeline of the people you followed. You only saw posts from those people in the timeline. It had SMS support. It felt like a way to text all your friends at once. It evolved from there.

On Threads, you get an algorithmic timeline. If the people you follow aren't active, you'll see a wall of content from people you don't. A chronological timeline is coming, apparently. We'll see.

Fast-forward to Twitter of recent times, and it's about as toxic as the internet can be. Threads doesn't seem to be like that – yet. The experience of others may be different of course. There's some iffy humour, but I've seen no reports of actual hate – yet.

It doesn't need more features

It doesn't need more features: Among others, Threads launched with the core features it needed. The ability to post, the ability to follow, and the ability to block people.

Muting people, liking posts and boosting posts are good things to see at launch (if you like muting people, liking posts and boosting posts, that is).

I don't want to see a rush of features that make it as Twitter-like as possible. People are calling for those. There is a roadmap. But I hope the Threads team keep an open mind about its direction. We don't need Twitter of 2016. We need something new.

The audience gets the privacy issues

There's a bit of snippiness online about people flooding to Threads given Meta and Facebook's history with data privacy. Predictably, you see this on Mastodon. But it's a mistake to think the people using Threads don't get it. It was one of the more popular joke topics for the first day or two.

Opinion warning: People may get frustrated by people's attitudes to data privacy, but it's their choice to make. Given the vast majority of users are coming from Instagram, its user base has made some of these decisions already.

It doesn't feel new new

People have been having a blast on Threads these past few days. From a strategic point of view, it was a great move to, um, tie Threads to Instagram so closely, with the option to bring across your followers should they sign up. It removed friction. It gave people an audience from day one.

But there are down sides. Part of the fun sides of a new social network is that, to an extent, everyone's on an equal footing. Of course, famous people, being famous, will find a larger audience fast. But there's an opportunity for new people to make a splash too. Nicholas Megalis on Vine springs to mind.

But another part of the fun is the chaos. Threads has had that at least.

It's all about the algorithm

A few days in and you can see some people reporting the same frustrations. Endless trite motivational posts. The same Homer Simpson meme over and over. The same people you don't follow.

The algorithm is presumably swayed by likes. Likes are swayed by follower-count. And follower-count is down to how many Instagram followers you brought over. If my Instagram was filled what appealed to Instagram users in general, I wouldn't use it.

As queasy as we may feel about privacy, Instagram is great at showing me content – and ads – relevant to my interests. I engage with ads nowhere online. Except Instagram.

Threads isn't like this – yet. I suspect a chronological timeline will be rushed out as a better way to give people the content they're looking for. Because for now, the algorithm isn't cutting it. And it looks like that's going to take time to fix.

Word of the day: “yet”

I've used the word yet a few times here. There's so much we don't know. I'd describe Threads first days as vibrant. But that won't last. If people are going to stay. And if more people are going to be won over, Threads has to offer much more than like-bait.