All it took was Twitter’s downfall and an alleged cage match between two of the world’s richest people to get Threads, Instagram’s answer to Elon Musk’s somewhat-erratic venture, off the ground. And today, Instagram launched the new social media platform – a little earlier than expected – on iOS and Android. The platform’s desktop site is live, too, though we couldn’t get past the screensaver homepage.
You need an Instagram account?
It begs the question; is it worth taking time out of your work-filled morning to download the app and join in the conversation? If your job is to use Threads, yes. If it isn’t… you’re not missing out on much. Unless you’re worried about being the 15180654th person to sign up to the platform, of course – a metric that Meta tracks because… reasons? Oh, and before you get any ideas, we’re already the proud owners of the #15180654 badge. Feel free to join the queue, though.
Signing up is about as simple as signing up to Instagram. We mean that literally, since Threads doesn’t let anyone sign up without pledging allegiance to Mark Zuckerberg’s other kingdom first. We tried going in fresh, to no avail. Twitter, for all its faults – of which there are plenty – doesn’t limit who can sign up to the site. Seeing tweets, though, is a different matter altogether.
Once you’ve cleared that particular hurdle, Instagram will make your account for you, pulling everything it needs from the Instagram account associated with it. That means your profile picture, username (if you’d like to change it, you’ll need to change your Instagram handle), bio, and links. It’ll even follow all the same accounts you do on Instagram if you’d like it to.
A for effort
It’ll take a few seconds for everything to arrange itself before you can begin your daily dose of doom-scrolling. When Instagram’s demons are done tidying up the place, you’ll have access to a layout that’s extremely familiar to Instagram users (go figure). That means there’s a home page, a search button, a ‘New Thread’ button, a place for all your activity to gather, and the usual profile section you’d expect from an Instagram spin-off.
We’ll start with the place you’ll be spending most of your time: the home page. If there’s one thing we can be certain of; it’s definitely a Twitter clone (you might be hearing that a lot today). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, considering Twitter’s recent run of form. But what does it do differently to Twitter besides employing a very Instagram-like UI? Not much. We’re fed a constantly-updating feed of ‘Threads’ that mimic Tweets, with options to like, reply and even Repost and Quote a Thread, to really drive the stake deeper into Musk’s heart. As if a stake could penetrate pure metal.
As for content, it’s lacklustre. We get it – Threads just launched, meaning the best content on there is “Threads just launched” but we’re hoping that’s just growing pains. Despite following a fair few accounts, we’ve yet to see a Thread from someone in our follow list, instead seeing those self-proclaimed “Threads influencers” which raises more questions than it answers. Like what the hell is a Threads influencer? If Zuck has any hopes of keeping this thing alive, we’ll need new feed options. Still, for a first attempt, it certainly could’ve gone worse.
Threading the needle
When the time comes to post a
Tweet Thread, you’re given a limit of 500 characters, as well as the option to post pictures and videos that are shorter than five minutes. That’s at odds with Twitter’s recent two-hour limit, but not something we condemn Threads for. If we’d like to see a movie, we’d do so. Threads also copies Twitter’s privacy controls, giving posters control over who can and can’t reply to a Thread, or just straight-up filtering out words you’d rather be censored on your account.
We won’t lament that Threads doesn’t have some form of direct messages built right in too much. Considering that the platform has so far been exclusively used for memes, it feels like a missed opportunity, one that we hope Meta doesn’t disregard for months, though we don’t expect them to.
First on Threads’ to-do list is to roll the app out to everyone. South Africa was lucky enough to be one of the 100+ countries that got access this morning. The EU, however, will have to wait while Meta tackles the laws there.
Next, it’s working on adding ActivityPub, the protocol that other social media such as Mastodon use. At the time of writing, it has yet to be added to the platform, with Instagram’s official announcement failing to mention when that might be happening.
“We believe this decentralized approach, similar to the protocols governing email and the web itself, will play an important role in the future of online platforms,” it said. “Threads is Meta’s first app envisioned to be compatible with an open social networking protocol – we hope that by joining this fast-growing ecosystem of interoperable services, Threads will help people find their community, no matter what app they use.”
Feature-wise, Instagram has said it’ll be working to improve recommendations, and adding new ones that’ll make discovering Threads and creators a bit more personal. As it stands, we’re inundated with the app’s bigger accounts and influencers that we’ve never heard of but have the coveted blue tick next to their names.
So, will you be signing up for Threads? Let us know.