- The AI Analyst by Ben Parr
- Elon Should Be Worried
Elon Should Be Worried
First Impressions of Threads, Meta's New Twitter Competitor
Meta and Instagram just launched their “Twitter Killer”, and the questions in my head are flying:
Will people abandon Twitter for Threads? Will Threads be adopted by the masses? And most of all, should Elon be worried?
Just a few hours into the launch of Threads, I can pretty confidently say the answers to these questions are: Yes, Maybe, and OMG YES.
Threads might be the next big social network. So it seems worthwhile to dive into the app, why it’s gained so much traction so quickly, and whether it will replace Twitter as the top text-based social networking app.
Let’s begin, shall we?
First, what is Threads?
Simple: It’s Meta’s new Twitter competitor. There have been rumors of Meta building a Twitter competitor for months, but now it’s live. It’s, by most standards, a copy of Twitter, complete with tweets (called “threads”), retweets (“reposts”), replies, and — in my case — THOUSANDS of notifications giving you constant dopamine hits.
The content — at least right now — reminds me of early Twitter, where people are just posting their most random thoughts and seeing what sticks. And at least for the next few days, people are hyper-engaged, so people are posting nonstop.
Threads is pretty unhinged right now, and I’m ALL about it.
Instead of building a waitlist over a few months (like Bluesky, Jack Dorsey’s decentralized Twitter competitor), Meta just opened the floodgates to anyone who wants to sign up. Within four hours, Threads surpassed 5 million users. By the time you read this article, Threads might be at 10 million or 100 million users — things are moving that fast.
(Suggestion — grab your Threads account now if you haven’t already! And please give me a follow while you’re at it.)
Now that you have the lowdown, let’s answer the three questions.
Will people abandon Twitter for Threads?
Answer: Yes, I’m pretty sure!
The early engagement on Threads is INSANE — you can get hundreds of likes on your posts with only a few followers. My phone keeps vibrating constantly. And I am LOVING it.
If we were living in 2021, Threads would not be getting anywhere near this amount of attention or love. There’s nothing Threads does that Twitter does not do already. And Threads doesn’t even have DMs, filters for feeds, audio rooms (Twitter spaces), or even a true web version. Yet I am 100% convinced that lots of people will spend far more time on Threads than they will on Twitter.
Why? It’s all because of this guy:
Elon, pictured here getting ready for his cage match with Mark. Image credit: Noam Galai, Getty Images, Loudwire
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t use Twitter, lucky you), Elon acquired Twitter for $44 billion dollars, cut >75% of the staff, refuses to pay for things like rent and servers, and constantly breaks core features such as the ability to read more than a few hundred tweets per day. Abuse on Twitter is up and engagement is down.
Many users (myself included) are tired of the constant drama and issues surrounding Elon and Twitter. It’s a product many of us have used and relied upon for a decade for news, networking, learning, and so much more. I spent a decade building up my following, but Twitter’s future has felt at risk so long as Elon is the owner. Impulsive decisions don’t bode well for the stability of a social network.
Say what you will about Mark Zuckerberg and Meta, but their products are stable, usable, and already have a built-in audience that numbers in the billions of users. You don’t have to worry about Meta firing half of its engineering staff and you don’t have to worry about Mark Zuckerberg suspending you for using the words cis or cisgender in a thread. (Yes, Elon really considers these words slurs. WTF.)
The frenetic energy around Threads tells me that millions of Twitter users are looking for an escape hatch. Meta sensed this and launched Threads at the absolute perfect time.
Will Threads be adopted by the masses?
Answer: Maybe, but it has a much better chance of gaining mass adoption than Twitter does.
Twitter, for all of its users, has struggled to gain mainstream adoption. Yes, Twitter makes headlines and news is often broken there, but most of the general public uses TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat as their go-to- social networks. Twitter, for all of its strengths, has lacked the mainstream appeal that could get it to a billion users. (At its peak, it only had 250 million users vs TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, all of which each have over 1 billion users.)
Threads could be different. Mark Zuckerberg was very clear for his ambition for Threads on the first day of launch:
A text-based social app getting to a billion users may not even be possible anymore. TikTok, YouTube and Instagram prove that visual-based social networks dominate our culture. But Meta has already proven it can get a more text-heavy social network (Facebook) to 2+ billion users before.
Short-term, early adopters will go nuts on Threads. That energy will die down though, and it’ll need the adoption of teenagers, celebrities, tastemakers, news organizations, and home-grown influencers to turn Threads into a mainstream success.
I don’t think Threads — or any text-based social app — can reach the user base size of TikTok or Instagram, but a billion users absolutely seems possible, especially since Meta can leverage its existing social graphs on Instagram and Facebook.
Should Elon Be Worried?
Answer: OMG YES
Elon has made unnecessary error after error during his time at the helm of Twitter. While Twitter was bloated and stagnant when he acquired it, Elon hasn’t done anything to expand its appeal. In fact, he’s done the opposite and alienated millions of hardcore Twitter users, from his mishandling of verified checkmarks to his far-right tweets.
I do believe Elon can turn things around. And I do believe he has a vision for an “everything” app. But Elon will not have a lot of time to right the ship now that Meta has built a true rival to his $44 billion dollar prize.
The last time Mark Zuckerberg and Co copied a social product (Stories), it became one of Meta’s core features. Most users don’t care about Meta’s past controversies so long as Meta provides a stable, relatively safe place to engage an audience and build a following.
Competition will spark good things out of Elon and Twitter, but it may not be enough. Meta has far more resources and goodwill in this fight. Threads is a completely clean slate with high energy. This is a potent recipe for Meta, who could very well topple Twitter’s active users and engagement in the next few months. Elon will be sweating bullets if users stick around Threads and use Twitter less.
Mark is proving once again why he’s the king of social media.