I've spent the past few days navigating the tiny labyrinth of "Threads," the new social media contender daring to rival Twitter. Fittingly I've done something quite meta, I've composed my initial assessment right within the app, threading my thoughts in real time. The result? A real-time view into my explorations, reactions, and discoveries. Now, I believe it's time to expand and elaborate on those impressions.
Threads have impressively entered the social media ring at just the right moment, attracting a considerable crowd. It stirred an indescribable sentiment within me, reminiscent of the old adage, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Comparatively, Facebook unintentionally painted Threads as the superior option.
I never thought I'd see such a situation, but life is not a straight line right?
A MVP Product
Threads may seem elementary at first glance, but don't be mistaken. This is a textbook Minimal Viable Product (MVP) that surprisingly caught on like wildfire, something I've never seen before. The iOS UI is sleek, the animations smooth, and the lack of adverts (for now) makes the overall user experience enjoyable.
However, this MVP also reveals some glaring omissions - essential features that I'll explore more in-depth further down.
The threading feature can be perplexing due to a less-than-intuitive UI design, which desperately needs a UI/UX expert's touch. You can respond to an initial thread or a reply, but the UI remains uniform, creating confusion. The function of the line on the left side of the message is equally ambiguous. Is it straight? Is it looped? What do these states signify? One thing is clear - they need to rethink threading to make it more instinctive.
Features (Or lack thereof)
Now, let's address the elephant in the room - the conspicuously missing features. The home feed is a disaster. Posts from people you follow drown in a sea of spam, and the lack of notifications when someone you follow posts is, to say the least, inconvenient. However it should also be acknowledge as part of the territory of MVP and I am sure they will come in the future.
The 'Magical' Algorithm
Here we go again, at the hands of some magical algorithm.
The magical algorithm that curates the home feed appears influenced by Instagram, favoring content you like or follow on the platform. Despite my efforts to influence my feed (posting in different languages, following new accounts, liking posts), the algorithm seems unyielding. For Threads to remain competitive, they need to refine the home feed to better cater to the user.
What I did notice was that following users on Threads seems to influence what appears, but it is like another variable in the mix. Location seems to have a large weight attached to it as well.
Well telling it like it is, this algorithm is trash, I am not liking what I am seeing, just like all those other useless "recommendation" algorithms.
The platform currently lacks private messaging functionality, a key feature for many users. Though it’s possible to bypass this by messaging through Instagram, this isn't ideal. Remember, even though you need an Instagram account to use Threads, you don't necessarily need to use Instagram. I don't know why this was not in the MVP, clearly they have done it with Facebook messenger and Instagram already.
No API or Web client
A significant downfall: no API or web client. Business and promo accounts are left in the dust. Posting from a phone? Far from ideal. But hey at least your Threads post are viewable online if public.
Search and censorship
The search function is more like a user hunt than anything else. Don't expect to find content or topics on there.
And don't get me started on the "early censorship". It's like having a parent hover over you, ready to scold at the slightest misstep.
Threads applies an infantile level of censorship and suggests that infringing users might have mental health concerns. This could inadvertently gaslight users into believing they have mental issues, an uncomfortably intrusive presumption. I don't feel comfortable with that message or such functionality. This feels like a glaring example of toxic positivity that may turn off users.
Behold this lovely message telling me that I am depressed.
Now let's address two other things.
Firstly they want Threads to be positive as stated here https://about.instagram.com/blog/announcements/threads-instagram-text-feature
This is not something I have a problem with just yet, but I think forcing anything could be troublesome.
Then the second major point is NSFW content, can this really survive or blossom under this? Remember that failure which is called Tumblr? An absolute disgrace and Threads seems to want to move in that direction from the beginning. But it's to soon to tell so I am still rather optimistic.
Addressing Further Points
While Threads posts are viewable in your browser, they don't appear on Google as readily. This however is still an improvement over Twitter's current state. As long as public posts are viewable publicly, I don't care too much, that's the point of public posts anyway.
Presently, there are no hashtags, a feature I'm currently indifferent about.
Private and Public Modes
The option to switch between private and public modes works well, providing an innovative approach to communication among friends. This feature might lead to something.
Uploaded files are stored on the Instagram CDN, maintaining a decent level of quality. A Thread post can currently have 10 files attached. Seems a reply to a Thread can also upload up to 10 files, but I have not tested that.
It has a 500 character limit, really not bad. You could always Thread if you need to write more.
Settings - Tying the Knot with Instagram
Currently you have to have an instagram account t use threads, if you want to change any of the settings, it opens up the instagram app. A decidedly unenjoyable experience. What happens if you uninstall instagram? Well since it's a MVP it might not even be respecting the settings any way.
Bluesky - The thought that does not go away.
While I'm yet to receive a Bluesky invite, the success of Threads indicates that there's a significant market waiting to be tapped. However, growth is a slow process without the presence of the right users. This is equally true for Threads, which might become challenging to abandon once heavily invested.
Threads definitely scratches the itch for those seeking an alternative to Twitter, but its long-term success will depend on fostering the right community. Also, considering Twitter's history with banning users, there's a level of caution approaching new platforms. It now feels like a dream to not have my history wiped out due to a whacky CEO change or unforeseen regulations. The damage done by Twitter even for non Twitter users is quite bad.
At this stage, Threads plans to support ActivityPub, though this doesn’t necessarily guarantee freedom from ill-advised decisions. In fact I'd say it's the opposite, call me skeptical but I think it might give people false optimism, but only time will tell.
After a week of usage, I still find myself opening Threads at least once a day. Despite the current limitations, I enjoy using Threads, and so far, either drafting a post or scrolling through my "home feed" for potential gems. I'm curious to see where this app goes in the future. For now, the potential of Threads is intriguing, but its long-term usability is still hazy.
As for Twitter, that door seems firmly closed.
Threads? It's growing on me. But like all social media platforms, it needs to attract a diverse and engaging community. While I continue to keep my hopes up for Bluesky, if the people or businesses I follow aren’t there, would I even bother? Only time will tell the fate of Threads and its place in the ever-evolving social media landscape.
So then: Threads? I'm tolerating it. Twitter? A closed door. Bluesky? Still a question mark.