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Threads: New social media app launched

'Say More with Threads': What's Next?

Honey ElMoghazi and Dalia Al Nimr
August 8, 2023

Threads, Meta’s newest addition to the social media platform, has received both praise and criticism since its launch a few weeks ago. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Threads post following the launch: “The vision for Threads is to create an option and friendly public space for conversation. We hope to take what Instagram does best and create a new experience around text, ideas and discussing what’s on your mind.” 

Naila Hamdy, associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication and associate dean of graduate studies and research at the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and Rasha Abdulla ’92, ’96, professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, examine what Threads has to offer. 

Why has Threads been launched now?

Abdulla: Threads is a new social media application that allows threads of microblogging or tweet-like conversations. It is owned by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Its launch comes at a time when the use of X [formerly Twitter] is declining, as increasing numbers of users are not happy with the way Elon Musk is running that app. 

Hamdy: Threads was created with a purpose, which is to compete with X. With Threads, Meta is reviving a text-based platform vs. the visual-based Instagram. 

How is Threads different from other social media platforms? 

Abdulla: Threads is linked to the user's Instagram account, so users must have an Instagram account to use Threads, and they cannot delete their Threads account without deleting Instagram. Meta intends to position Threads as sort of a text extension to Instagram. Compared with X, Threads allows for longer messages of 500 characters, as opposed to X's 280 characters. Threads can also feature longer videos of up to five minutes, while X videos can only be  2 minutes and 20 seconds. So far, Threads is free from advertising, although I expect this will change once the app reaches certain benchmarks.

Some have called Threads the “X killer.” What is your take on that? 

Hamdy: It’s too early to tell. X has been changing a lot over the last few weeks and has its own fans. It's sort of a legacy social media, much like Facebook is. We need to let things settle and see. We can probably assess in a year's time. Both X and Threads may not take off, and maybe something else will come along, like the way TikTok did. Who would've thought that TikTok would get to the point where it's at today? We must remember that the old school has its followers. Not everybody will jump onto something new.

Abdulla: Threads is considered a major challenger to X mainly because it's backed by Meta and because so many X users are dissatisfied with the service and already looking for an alternative. So Threads is in a prime position to take over as the number-one microblogging app. 

Threads users totaled around 70 million one day after the app's launch. Why do you think it has reached such a high number in a short period of time?

Hamdy: This initial hike doesn’t indicate where it will be in the future; users have actually gone down afterward. This always happens: The social media arena becomes crowded, things pop up and some go down, like what happened with Clubhouse. We will see more of this as we progress. Competition is there. 

We also don’t have information on user age groups and where they’re from. Are we looking at North America, Europe or the Global South? We’ve seen so many ups and downs with social media, which is used by young and old people, different layers and generations. Will X users jump off-board and go to Threads? Not necessarily, especially since younger people are much more likely to go to visual-based social media. It’s too early to tell. We need to give it time to settle then we could look back and evaluate. 

What’s your advice to users?

Hamdy: As social media develops, everybody is looking for safety online, how to keep people safe in that environment with these conversations, who to encourage and who to remove. We must have regulations and community guidelines to protect youth, children and vulnerable groups. That's the most important thing to consider when a new medium is launched.

Abdulla: My advice to users is to just be aware of the amount of data that Threads and other social media apps and platforms collect about them. Most of us click "I agree" or "I accept" on the terms and conditions of any app without paying much attention to them. Other than the usual access to app content, phone contacts, photos, location, etc., the Threads policy also states that the app will have access to information that is not directly related to app usage, such as information on the user's health and fitness, finances, purchases and what they call "sensitive information" and "other data," so pretty much everything on the user's phone. Users should just be aware of the amount of data being collected about them and make their choices of social media apps accordingly.