Hi, everyone. Madison is out this week, so I’ve hacked the mainframe and seized control.
I come to you with a breaking news vibes report from Threads, the new Twitter clone that Mark Zuckerberg unveiled on Wednesday. It has already signed up 30 million users, according to Zuckerberg, and appears to be the most rapidly downloaded app ever.
If you haven’t tried it out yet, here’s a really quick summary of what you’ve been missing: Olivia Rodrigo is promoting her new single. Al Roker is posting about his ear wax. Brands like Slim Jim and Wendy’s are trying to be funny, and The YouTube star MrBeast became the first user to hit a million followers.
“Can’t get enough of your threads,” the actress Jennifer Lopez said in a Threads post. Paris Hilton asked followers to name her new puppy. “Welcome to Gay Twitter!” said Ellen DeGeneres, who then got dragged in the replies (some things are platform-agnostic, I guess).
For an app that has caused a lot of drama — Twitter is already threatening legal action — the user experience feels basic, even rote. So far, the 500-character messages on the app contain lots of self-promotion and Elon Musk memes. If there’s a dominant topic of conversation, it’s how weird it is to be on Threads. Several users have said that it feels like the first day of school.
There have been an unusually high number of first days of school lately. Ever since Elon Musk bought Twitter last year and plunged the platform into chaos, a series of supposed replacements have gotten buzz, only to fizzle out. Remember Mastodon? How about Bluesky?
Will Threads actually be different? We shall see. As my colleague Mike Isaac reported, Threads has the advantages of Meta’s vast resources and Instagram’s billions-strong user base. Imitating a competitor is classic Zuck: Meta has previously released features that mimic Snapchat and TikTok.
What we’ve learned from Mastodon and Bluesky is that no matter how much users like the idea of a Twitter replacement, they won’t actually migrate to one unless it’s as easy-to-use and addictive as Twitter once was. Threads checks the former box; the latter remains to be seen.
It’s easy to get set up on Threads. There’s no begging for invites (embarrassing) or learning a totally new interface (awkward). The app looks and feels pretty much like Twitter with Instagram’s fonts.
A few things may feel unfamiliar. You need an Instagram account to get going in Threads. There are no ads — for now — and the app doesn’t currently support direct messaging, which is an important component of Twitter.
The biggest thing Threads offers is a ready-made social graph, via the option to automatically follow everyone you follow on Instagram. This built-in audience is a plus for celebrities and brands. Blue checks from Instagram also carry over to Threads.
As a result, the barrier to entry is low for those who already have prominent Instagram accounts. “They don’t have to learn something new, they don’t have to develop a new following,” said Robyn Caplan, assistant professor of technology at Duke University.
Importing followers has its downsides, Caplan added. Even a cherished Instagram follow may not be the type of account you want to follow on a text-heavy platform like Threads. And in Caplan’s brief time on the app, she has noticed her feed dominated by blue-checked accounts that do not always feel relevant to her life. (The very first post she saw was by the Backstreet Boys.)
There’s plenty of time for that to change and the platform to take off — and just as much time for it to peter out. The early adopters of Threads seem aware of that.
“I’m either early to the party or no one else is coming,” the actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan wrote on the app. “Truly can go either way, Threads.”
Let us know what you think of Threads at email@example.com.
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