Threads is just new social media platform, In the world of social media, a clash between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk might be a captivating sight, but for now, it seems we can only expect a social media war. In today’s Finshots, we delve into the reasons why betting on the winner might not be as easy as it seems.
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Threads – The Story Unfolds
Fifteen years ago, Mark Zuckerberg had his sights set on Twitter. He attempted to acquire the bird app multiple times, but his efforts proved unsuccessful. However, he had his hands full with other ventures, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and the Metaverse, which took precedence. Consequently, the idea of acquiring Twitter was put on hold.
Fast forward to the present, Zuckerberg has now launched Threads to challenge Elon Musk’s domain.
In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Threads is a direct reference to Twitter. It emulates the concept of threading tweets together. So, naturally, it comes across as a wannabe.
But can Threads truly disrupt Twitter’s near-monopoly in the realm of social text-based applications?
Over the past few months and years, we’ve witnessed the emergence of a few Twitter alternatives. Mastodon gained momentary popularity when Musk took over Twitter, but its user base dwindled over time. India’s own Koo made some noise in certain parts of the world, but its daily user count dropped by half to 4 million in the past year. Spoutible, a Twitter doppelganger, remains relatively unknown. Additionally, ex-Twitter CEO-backed Bluesky has received lukewarm reviews thus far.
The pattern is consistent across all these apps. They create some initial buzz, leading people to believe they might pose a serious challenge to Twitter. However, the hype gradually fades away. So far, no app has achieved the critical mass necessary to snatch users away from the incumbent, Twitter.
However, there is a widespread belief that Threads could be the real game-changer. Why, you ask?
The primary reason is Zuckerberg‘s tight integration of Threads with Instagram. The photo-sharing platform boasts nearly 2.5 billion monthly active users, which accounts for a quarter of the world’s population. The network effect is colossal. Think of Instagram as an enormous party attended by the most popular individuals worldwide. People flock to the platform because everyone else is already there. Users can follow their friends’ activities, keep track of their favorite celebrities, and stay in the loop. The network effect enhances their digital social lives and keeps them informed.
Consequently, Threads doesn’t need to build its user network from scratch like other imitative applications. It merely needs to find a way to migrate some of Instagram’s users. Perhaps a subtle notification informing users that their friends or followed accounts have shared unfiltered thoughts on Threads could nudge them in a new direction.
This existing network of users represents Threads’ greatest advantage. Reportedly, 30 million people signed up on its first day alone.
Understandably, people are already hailing Threads as the “Twitter killer.”
On paper, it all seems straightforward. However, will Threads actually succeed in practice, or will it join the graveyard of failed Twitter clones?
Truth be told, we don’t have a definitive answer, and we wouldn’t bet against Zuck. Nonetheless, let’s explore why Threads might struggle to dethrone Twitter.
To begin, let’s examine Instagram’s history of copying ideas.
Take Reels, for instance, which imitates TikTok. Zuckerberg claims that people now spend 25% more time on the app since its introduction. However, as of last year, users were still spending nearly 200 million hours a day on TikTok, while Reels garnered a mere 17.6 million hours. TikTok still reigns supreme in the realm of short videos.
Another example is Instagram’s adoption of the disappearing Stories feature pioneered by Snapchat. While it has proven successful for Instagram, it hasn’t managed to extinguish Snapchat. Snapchat has continued to innovate and remains a strong player in the market.
Additionally, Instagram had a feature called “Candid stories,” inspired by BeReal. The latter encouraged users to share unfiltered photos once a day by simultaneously capturing front-facing and back-facing images. BeReal may not enjoy the same level of virality as before, but that’s not because Instagram usurped its position.
In summary, Instagram’s history of copying ideas hasn’t spelled doom for the original platforms.
However, you might argue that Twitter is different. Since Musk’s involvement, the bird app has been faltering. Users are losing interest and gradually trickling away. Advertisers are abandoning ship, and Twitter’s ad revenue this year is projected to be 28% lower than last year. Moreover, Twitter keeps changing the rules of the game, sparking outrage when it abruptly limited the number of tweets users could view each day. Needless to say, Twitter users were furious.
Threads couldn’t have entered the scene at a more opportune moment. It appears perfect. Furthermore, considering that 87% of Twitter users are already on Instagram, transitioning to Threads seems like a seamless shift.
Nevertheless, to truly assess whether Threads can supplant Twitter, we must address a fundamental question: Why do people use Twitter?
In one word, the answer is news.
According to Twitter’s own survey, 55% of users claim to use the platform primarily for real-time updates. Twitter is where events unfold, be it good, bad, or ugly. The platform played a pivotal role in uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia a decade ago. Researchers have even studied Twitter sentiment to analyze its impact on stock prices.
But news isn’t the only reason people flock to Twitter. Shitposting is another phenomenon that Twitter has popularized.
Shitposting refers to controversial and provocative statements made without context. It can be described as “serious people making silly posts.” Although the word first surfaced in the early 1990s, platforms like Twitter brought shitposting into the mainstream. According to Google Trends, people started paying attention to shitposting around 2014. Clearly, there is an audience for unhinged thoughts, and it has become part of the cultural zeitgeist.
In essence, Twitter isn’t primarily used to keep tabs on friends and family. It serves a different purpose as a social network.
So, what will Threads offer? What void will it fill? Undoubtedly, there will be a honeymoon phase where everyone wants to try out the shiny new toy. However, what happens when the novelty wears off? Will people still crave Twitter’s news and shitposting despite its issues? Or will they prefer the “friendly” atmosphere that Zuckerberg promises with Threads? Only time will tell.
Therefore, for now, let’s refrain from penning Twitter’s eulogy.
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