Instagram has unveiled Threads, a highly anticipated text-based social networking app that allows users to share updates in various formats, including text, links, photos, and videos. With a character limit 500 and support for videos up to 5 minutes long, Threads offers a new avenue for users to express themselves and connect with others. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms in 100 countries, except for the European Union (EU), where concerns about data privacy regulations have delayed its release.
Features and Target Audience
Threads have been designed to cater to high-profile celebrities, influencers, and artists. Leaks and previews have shed light on its feature set while highlighting its future support for ActivityPub, the social networking protocol used by Mastodon and other federated apps. This integration with ActivityPub will enable Threads to expand its reach and tap into the existing user base of Mastodon, which boasts 1.7 million active users. However, the move also puts Threads in competition with other Mastodon clients such as Ivory and Mammoth and companies like Flipboard, Medium, and Automattic, which have invested in the Mastodon ecosystem.
Instagram Integration and Familiarity
One of the advantages of Threads is its seamless integration with Instagram. Users can log in with their existing Instagram credentials, and their username, verification status, and account details will carry over to the new app. This integration facilitates a smooth onboarding and allows users to tap into their existing Instagram networks effortlessly. Threads inherit the same Community Guidelines as Instagram, making it easier for users to understand the content policies and offer the option to customize profiles and control audience interactions.
Instagram’s Exploration and Prior Experiments
Instagram has been actively exploring ways to expand beyond photo and video sharing. The launch of “broadcast channels” earlier in 2023 gave creators a platform to connect directly with their followers through text, images, polls, reactions, and GIFs. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also utilized this feature to share product news. Furthermore, Instagram has experimented with text-based updates, such as the introduction of Notes in December, which allowed users to leave short text posts for friends to see. The company has shown a commitment to expanding its offerings beyond visual content.
Privacy Challenges and EU Launch Delay
Before its release, Threads faced scrutiny over its data collection practices, with some users noting that the app collects sensitive user data, including health-related information, financial data, contacts, and browsing history. While this data collection is not unique to Threads and is a common practice among major social platforms, users now have more agency in choosing platforms with better privacy practices. However, Threads has an advantage in leveraging users’ existing Instagram networks.
Due to ongoing privacy concerns surrounding Meta’s apps, Threads is not launching in the EU now. Meta has reportedly delayed the launch due to legal uncertainties arising from the Digital Markets Act. The company was fined approximately $1.3 billion in May for transferring European Union user data to the US without proper authorization. This delay leaves EU users with one less Twitter alternative, while those with access to Threads can decide whether to embrace Meta’s family of apps further.
Instagram Threads, a Text-Based Social Networking App
Instagram’s Threads enters the microblogging space, offering users a new text-based social networking experience. While its success remains to be seen, Threads benefits from integration with Instagram’s existing user base and familiarity. However, Meta’s track record with standalone apps raises questions about their long-term viability. The app’s future implementation of ActivityPub will enable broader reach, though it will also face competition from other Mastodon clients. Privacy challenges and the delayed EU launch present additional considerations for users as they navigate the evolving landscape of social media platforms.