Meta’s new Twitter lookalike, Threads, launched on July 6 to much hype and quickly reached 100 million users in under a week. But whether the app can keep up that momentum is unclear.
Threads seemed on track to challenge Twitter, the long-time microblogging incumbent that just rebranded to X. But how quickly things change on the internet: Despite its initial splash, various data sites now show Threads user activity has fallen as much as 70% from its first week. Average usage time has also dropped considerably in this time, from 21 minutes to six.
Meanwhile, the concept of decentralized social media has received an infusion of new interest, particularly in the wake of Twitter’s surprise rebrand.
So is Threads poised to take over Twitter — ahem, X — as the number-one microblogging site for crypto enthusiasts? We tapped some respected Web3 community builders and social media experts to find out their thoughts.
Beware: Threads isn’t actually decentralized yet
Threads parent company Meta promises that the new platforms will soon be decentralized, but some Web3 enthusiasts are skeptical. The platform announced plans to be compatible with the decentralized social media protocol ActivityPub, which would allow users to interact with other social media platforms like the open-source Mastodon network, Bluesky and others.
A future with interoperable, user-owned social media platforms would be a big deal. But critics aren’t convinced that Threads is the way. As of now, Threads users can only create accounts through existing Instagram credentials, which seems like a suspiciously convenient way to lock in user data.
Users also can’t interact entirely anonymously in the Threads multiverse, since their accounts are presumably always going to be linked with a Meta account requiring a legal name and date of birth (members of Crypto Twitter’s anonymous, aka “anon,” culture will most certainly curdle at the thought of “doxxing” themselves, or revealing their true identity, on a new platform.)
But despite the concerns, CoinDesk’s Emily Parker points out that most people outside of Crypto Twitter’s echo chambers care more about accessibility than privacy and decentralization. Anyone can easily pop their heads over into Threads to check out the vibes, no matter their technical ability. This ease of use has always proven most important when it comes to widespread adoption.
As for features, Threads’ are simple to use. Verified Instagram users will notice their existing verification carries over to Threads, and a thread (a post) can be cross-pollinated as an Instagram story. This intersite functionality makes it easy to reach more potential viewers with the same content.
Decentralization purists won’t like it, but perhaps this Meta-owned cross-posting functionality is the first necessary step toward building a truly open Web3. In a decentralized future, users will be able to move content and interact with peers across different apps built on the same underlying standards. What if Threads is training us for that kind of seamlessness?
“Personally, I’m rooting for a decentralized social [network] to succeed,” said Riley Blackwell, Web3-focused community-building strategist. Though Blackwell noted that she’s more in favor of Lens Protocol or Bluesky as Twitter alternatives than Threads, she nonetheless admitted that Threads will “undoubtedly capture the average [social media] user” who’s not as interested in learning about underlying protocols.
Threads responded to the zeitgeist — but so far, nothing else
Twitter has long been a target for disruption due to its often glitchy features and fire-stoking “free speech” guidelines that, according to those who left the platform, incite hate speech and bigotry.
In comparison, Threads seemed like a friendlier, less incendiary alternative: “I like that people are using Threads for different types of conversation,” said Blackwell.
However, it’s still unclear what the true value proposition of Threads is.
“Though Mark [Zuckerberg] and the Instagram team seem to have captured the hype with a new product, it feels like a missed opportunity,” Blackwell said. “I don’t need a Twitter clone – I need Meta to think deeper about creating new ways to connect.”
More vocal critics argue that Threads not only devalues social connection but also commodifies it. Carrie Melissa Jones, author and online community strategist, said she first felt “hopeful” that Threads could replace the void she felt after leaving Twitter, but now thinks the app lacks the sense of camaraderie she felt in Twitter’s early days.
“I missed having a place for news, quick questions and silly conversations,” Jones said. “Meta can’t duplicate that experience; their viral growth ambitions are stronger than their desire to build something with a distinct culture and purpose.
In a recent LinkedIn post, Jones summarized her critique succinctly, writing: “Mark Zuckerberg talks about community like it’s a virus, most successful when it multiplies for no real purpose beyond its own existence.” Ouch.
And now Twitter, after announcing its rebrand to X, is receiving similar criticism from users who consider this move to be ego-driven.
The platform wars remind us to cultivate independent relationships
If anything, members of the Web3 community are using Threads with a scientist’s mind, an exploratory spirit that doesn’t rule any option out, but also doesn’t rely on a single platform either.
Rae Isla, an Americana singer-songwriter who used sales of her non-fungible token (NFT) collection, Rae Isla’s Rocks, to build an online fan community, remains appropriately skeptical of all centralized platforms. “Use the tools,” she posted. “Don’t let them use you.”
At the end of the day, Threads may replace X for members of the general public, but it probably won’t replace Crypto Twitter, which is composed of people who stay curious, value decentralization and collaborate on open-source protocols in the hopes of inching us towards a vision of a user-owned internet. Perhaps the next platform that lures us away from our glitchy Twitter Spaces and novel-length tweet threads won’t come from Meta, but rather from a handful of developers working in stealth mode right now.
To that end, maybe authentic relationships and meaningful connection will always be the most interoperable form of communication we have.