Threads achieved 175 million monthly active users in its first year. Can Zuckerberg catch up with Musk?

Meta’s new social media platform celebrates its first anniversary by coming close to X, the goal with which it was launched. Despite being a clone of X, Threads has always sought to distinguish itself as a less angry place, with fewer politics and news

Mark Zuckerberg Threads
Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, in Congress last January.NATHAN HOWARD (Reuters)
Jordi Pérez Colomé

Meta launched its social media platform Threads a year ago with the goal of competing with X, formerly Twitter. In these 12 months it has achieved 175 million active monthly users, as recently announced by Mark Zuckerberg, executive president of Meta. The company has benefited from the promotion Threads receives for being linked to Instagram and its hundreds of millions of users. As a result, it has become the biggest threat to the social network purchased by Elon Musk in 2022. Threads did not reach Europe until December, almost six months after its launch, due to Meta’s caution on the European playing field.

The company has not revealed how many daily users Threads has, as it does with its other networks Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The reason may be that there are still many users who barely use the application on a daily basis, beyond seeing a message thanks to the Instagram tab where it shows updates. Threads reached 100 million registered users in just five days, faster than any other app in history. Zuckerberg’s announcement led to the promise of a cage fight with Musk that never came to fruition.

Despite being a clone of X, Threads has always sought to distinguish itself as a less angry place, with fewer politics and less news. The Threads algorithm is much more delicate when it comes to promoting polarizing or denigrating content, and mainly promotes incisive conversations and comments about current events: “Leaning into politics could maybe drive more engagement,” said Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram and Threads at Meta, in an interview for the first anniversary with the specialized website Platformer. “I think it’s a very dicey place to be. Take a hot issue — the war in Gaza, right now. Do you really want to be showing people content that is a really strong opinion, that is either pro-Israeli or Palestinian, to someone, from an account they did not decide to follow? That is a pretty precarious situation, and a presumptuous thing to do. Could you maybe drive some more attention through that? Probably. Is that really worth it? Worth the risks that come along with it? Worth the anger might create with the mistakes you might make? Hard to say that it’s worth that,” he adds.

This explanation summarizes the experience of using Threads compared to X, where controversy and anger were historical drivers of the network, even before Musk’s acquisition. The problem is that it is not a dynamic place that sets trends or creates memes. Meta’s approach is that there is room on the internet for a network with a different tone, where each user chooses what type of topics interest them. Zuckerberg said a year ago that Threads should aspire to be the next app with a billion users.

Threads hinted that it was going to integrate into fediverse, a a collection of social networking services that use a common protocol called ActivityPub allowing messages to be delivered on several networks at the same time. Mosseri now seems to be moving away from that intention: “The fediverse is a long-term bet. It isn’t driving a lot of Threads growth. It is proving very difficult just to do the basics, particularly from a compliance and a privacy perspective,” Mosseri told Platformer.

X continues to have more total users, although Musk has not shared concrete details since he bought the company. In October 2022, the social network exceeded 500 million active monthly users, and around 215 million daily users. In his latest announcement, Musk said he was going to remove the “repost” and “like” buttons under each message, that repost, like, and reply counts will also be removed from each individual post, and that users will have to swipe left or right on a post in order to like or reply, adopting movements like those used on Tinder and other apps.

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