Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and more, has had a long history of shamelessly copying products from other fast growing companies, or simply buying them out and folding them under its massive brand.
It should come as no surprise then, that less than a year after billionaire Elon Musk bought Twitter and began ruthlessly tearing apart the 17 year old app leading to changes that have disappointed a large swath of its userbase, Mark Zuckerberg and team released their own version of the app, Threads, that looks and feels nearly identical to the original Twitter.
The name is even a direct reference to the threading functionality that users of the Twitter app invented in response to the original character limits it supported.
Much of the most basic functionality of Twitter such as @ messaging users and the use of # hashtags will also be emulated by the Threads app as a way to make the new application feel as familiar as possible for users looking for a refuge from an app that they used to love, but has of late become a cesspool of negativity elevating conspiracy theories and voices that serve to antagonize.
Many of the application’s users are reporting that the content generally feels more positive and constructive, and in the same breath reminisce how Twitter felt in its early years, as a place to share what goes on in your life, and the first social network of its kind where you could directly connect and communicate with strangers, including celebrities and leaders of whatever industry you might be interested in.
While reportedly Twitter’s top users have overall been using the application less as of the Musk takeover last year, the social network still has plenty of fans, in particular those who like the billionaire’s particular brand of “free speech” that naturally seems to elevate the kind of speech he personally feels needs protection, rather than a truly democratic version of the term.
Just as millions have flocked to the new application, some refer to the app as the boring version of Twitter, which for the time being seems to be the point. After just a few days in the market, Threads has already been accused of censorship from more right leaning voices due to its community guidelines ostensibly designed to mitigate misinformation.
Still, clearly there’s demand for a Twitter-like application that feels different. In its first week of existence Threads neared 100 million users, more of a testament for the pent-up-demand than the novelty of the app, given it’s directly pulling users that already existed on Instagram, a company Meta owns, with a seamless account creation process.
The initial reception of Threads has overall been positive, if not reluctantly so given the overall negative sentiment that Meta as a company, and Mark Zuckerberg as a leader have received in recent years with people’s real concern about user-data privacy, and its own role in disseminating misinformation.
But will the app’s initial hype prove to have staying power? That will largely depend on the enthusiasm of users as the social network matures over time. There’s no guarantee that Threads will maintain its comparatively feel-good reputation that it has garnered at its launch over-time as most social networks have proven to degrade in quality over time as their algorithms reward provocation.
But at a time when it seems nearly impossible to avoid internet arguments and negativity, let’s take a moment to enjoy a glimpse of what an online community can look like when it concentrates on people’s positive impulses vs. speaking to society’s lowest common denominator.