Last week, our editor asked longtime tech journalists Brian X. to review Meta’s new social network, Threads. When Chen and Mike Isaac were appointed, it was like traveling back in time.
We’ve both been writing about social media for over a decade. Over the past half-dozen years, the social media landscape has remained largely static — except for the rise of short-video app TikTok — and has been dominated by Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook.
The advent of threads, created from Instagram and considered a privileged space for public conversations in real time, affects the panorama. While the new app is a fad, it could pose a powerful threat to Twitter, which has held its crown as the center of conversation for more than a decade.
But how many of us are hung up on texts? With one of us, Brian, we were wondering how to take it Occasional user Another one from Twitter – Mike – is a Been addicted to Twitter for a long time, which may affect our experience with the new Meta app. Here we find out about the pros and cons of threads and whether it can become a part of your life.
Brian: Hi Mike! It’s been a while since we did a joint analysis. Years ago, we were excited about the new PlayStation and Xbox releases. Now we’re back together, why, again?
Mike: Yes, we’re back, this time to look at trending social app threads created by Meta. After playing with it for a few days, I started wondering if I could kick my Twitter addiction by switching to the “friendly” social network created by Meta’s director, Mark Zuckerberg.
For now, I love it. But it certainly looks like a scaled-down version of Twitter. There are no labels, there are many influencers… and the worst part is that many people who respond to me do not understand my jokes, which are usually well understood on Twitter.
Brian, I’m concerned that everyone coming to the threads from Instagram doesn’t know how to post.
Brian: That’s interesting. Threads is a clone of Twitter, but Meta introduces the concept to people who have never tweeted before and have been on Instagram. So there will be a bad phase in the adaptation.
But let me back up for a second. Threads is a free app that you download from the Apple or Google App Store. To configure it, connect it to your Instagram account. Threads invites you to follow all your friends on Instagram.
From there, it displays a timeline of posts, and you can write short notes about what’s posted for the public to see. You can also upload photos, but the emphasis is on text, just like on Twitter.
What differences on Twitter did you immediately notice?
Mike: It’s like Twitter, but in easy mode.
For one, threads are algorithmically curated, like Facebook or Instagram. That is, when you log in, you see different posts based on your interests, whether they were posted five hours ago or five minutes ago (is this a post or is this a thread? We haven’t decided on the terminology yet? )
It represents a change from what we’re used to on Twitter, where the most prominent feature is the reverse timeline. That means you see all the posts of the people you follow in reverse order, making Twitter indispensable for breaking news and live events.
With threads, I think the algorithmic selection is intended by Instagram. They have said that threads should be „friendly” when people log in. It seems a bit sterile to me, but I’m not bombarded with hate speech and racist slurs, which I consider a huge plus.
Brian: I don’t really like Meta’s interest-based algorithm. My Threads feed has turned into a ton of posts from accounts I don’t follow, mostly from influencers and brands promoting their products. I have very few impressions of real friends.
To be fair, Twitter’s timeline isn’t great either. Quality has been deteriorating due to changes that affect how people read the site, including requiring you to pay $8 a month for a Twitter Blue subscription to have your posts appear on other people’s timelines.
There’s another big difference between Threads and Twitter: the character limit on Threads is 500 characters, while on Twitter it’s 280 characters for free accounts.
Is it good to have more characters?
Mike: I don’t believe it. Abstraction is the soul of knowledge, right? In my opinion, brevity is the soul of a tweet, not writing a blog post that should be a short message.
Twitter has tested this paid Twitter Blue option where people can post incredibly long tweets of up to 10,000 characters. This seems to me to detract from the original goal of short tweets. But I’m a curmudgeon.
I’m curious: how do you do on threads by overlaying your twitter with your instagram followers?
It was a different experience. I’m a lot different on my Instagram than I am on Twitter. On IG, I usually post things I cooked that week or the last concert I attended. Twitter is my place to write about work and the tech industry, while occasionally posting snippets from my personal life. Threads feels like a hybrid of the two, at least for now.
Brian: It was hard for me too so I didn’t post much. Like many people, I made my Instagram account private years ago because I didn’t want the public to see photos of my family. It became a „friends only” network.
With threads, I now have to rethink what I share publicly. It’s kind of crazy.
Mike: I understand you completely. I’m still going to try it, but I’m curious if you think this could be the next big app, especially since you’re less active on Twitter than I am.
Brian: I don’t play technical products like horses. But based on my reports on how ordinary people who use technology but are not interested in it engage in social media, they may not post much in threads.
The truth is, Twitter is not a social network, nor are threads. Both are platforms for big brands, celebrities, politicians and media to share information with their followers.
This type of network does not fit the way people interact socially. In social clubs, people gather in small groups around common interests. They don’t huddle in a big conference room and shout like we do on Twitter and now in threads.
Mike: Of course. I have a decent group of Twitter followers who know what they’re going to read from me and understand when I’m joking. But I am well aware that when a tweet of mine goes viral and travels beyond the realm of those who know me, I will be 100 percent misunderstood and possibly insulted. We call this “environmental collapse”.
Brian: Meta knows it too. A few years ago you reported that Mark Zuckerberg said that people are increasingly moving away from large social media platforms and toward smaller, more isolated networks. Among them, private Facebook groups and messaging apps.
Mike: Shout out to the private Slack and Discord groups I’m in, with only a handful of close friends.
Brian: And it all makes sense. People have learned that it is not a good idea to share so much personal information in public.
Also, if I want to talk to you, why am I going to send a public message instead of a private one? This is perhaps the greatest limitation of threads compared to Twitter—direct messaging—which currently makes it an inferior product. But since this functionality is already part of Instagram, it’s only a matter of time before it’s added.
Mike: I think there is a kind of performance in public speaking, where my conversations with you take on a different tone and meaning than if we were speaking on stage in front of an audience. There is something funny about it. But it can often be stopped quickly. News, as you point out, helps avoid that.
Brian: Text messages are already losing the battle to engage with brands and influencers. The growing popularity of TikTok and Instagram Reels shows that casual tech users, especially younger ones, prefer watching videos of celebrities and influencers they follow rather than reading their short texts.
In conclusion, it is difficult to compare Twitter and Threads because Threads are part of Instagram, which is much bigger than Twitter. If the features improve, I may switch from Twitter to threads because of the size of Instagram, which will bring me more followers. (If so, I @bxchen en threads) But, like others, I may not spend much time with my friends there.
Mike: Now I’m trying to post different things on six different networks and it’s not fun. But I guess at least something goes away and I can stop posting. At least, I hope so.
Let’s meet en… ¿threadsI think?
Brian: You have to follow me first, Mike.
Brian X. Chen is a consumer technology columnist. He reviews products and writes an article called Tech Fix. Before joining The Times in 2011, he reported on the wireless industry for Apple and Wired. @bxchen
Mike Isaac is a technology reporter and editor The Battle for Uber: Unbridled Ambition, about the dramatic rise and fall of a passenger transportation company, is on the bestseller list. He regularly covers Facebook and Silicon Valley, and is based in the Times’ San Francisco offices. @Mike Isaac • Facebook