Inside Threads, Meta’s alternative to Twitter

The new social media platform has no character limit on messages, and will not limit how many posts a user can see in a day

Luis Pablo Beauregard
The Threads logo.Richard Drew (AP)

Meta has launched Threads, a new social media platform aimed at trumping Twitter. The highly-anticipated launch took place on Wednesday, a day earlier than planned, and sparked more chaos at Twitter, which has been facing numerous crises since it was bought by Elon Musk last year.

The new minimalist-style text app is available in a hundred countries, although for the moment it has no launch date in the European Union as it does not comply with EU privacy requirements. Threads is linked to Instagram, which has more than 1.6 billion users worldwide, and having an Instagram account is a requisite for using the app.

Instagram’s massive audience is one of the app’s biggest strengths in the competition with Twitter. “I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will,” said Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg in a Threads post.

The 39-year-old technological entrepreneur has been in charge of launching the new creation of Meta, whose logo is an @ symbol that also resembles an ear. “Glad you’re all here on day one. Let’s build something great together!,” added Zuckerberg, who said that the goal of the new network is to create “an open and friendly public space for conversation.” Ahead of the launch, Musk called on Twitter for Zuckerberg to fight him in a cage match. The Meta founder accepted, but it is not clear whether the fight will happen, or whether it is a joke.

To underscore the importance of the launch, Zuckerberg took to Twitter and shared his first message in more than a decade. He posted an image of Spider-Man pointing to a doppelgänger, a popular meme that pokes fun at exact copies.

Zuckerberg posted his first message on Threads two days ago, during the testing period carried out by Instagram. His first public message received more than 13,000 hearts in just a few minutes. In the first four hours after the launch, more than five million users joined the app. The first people to browse Threads found a somewhat chaotic timeline. Users can write messages and post photos and videos. Several brands, celebrities and media companies, most from the United States, were active on the app before it was opened to the public.

Comparisons with Twitter flooded the new social network in the first minutes after launch. One of Thread’s engineers wryly wrote that they are “generous” and will allow users to see more than 600 posts a day. “We believe you have the right,” said the engineer, in reference to the fact that Musk announced that accounts that are not verified by Twitter Blue — a service that costs $115 a year — would not be able to see more than 600 posts a day on Twitter. He later revised this figure up to 1,000. Unlike other platforms, Threads does not have a direct message box for open discussion, nor is there a limit on posts, which can be longer than 500 characters.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri has asked users to be kind in order to maintain the constructive tone they’re aiming for on Threads. He also provided tips on how to debug conversations or topics. Threads uses some of the moderation filters used by Instagram, such as Hidden Words, which allows users to hide comments or message requests that they don’t want to receive — a useful function for people who are being harassed or can’t keep up with their notifications. Threads will share the same rules as Facebook and Instagram, which are more conservative than Twitter, a platform that allows nudity and even pornographic videos. For example, users will not be able to see images of naked people or women’s nipples, one of the longest-standing controversies facing the Silicon Valley giant. “We don’t have any philosophical issues with nudity, we just can’t verify age or consent, which makes it a safety issue,” said Mosseri, when asked if Threads would allow women’s nipples.

New user messages are accompanied by four buttons: like, comment, repost (or quote) and share. The last function even allows users to post a Threads message on Twitter. At the moment, there are no hashtags, although they will be available soon, according to the developers. Nor is it possible to search the app for posts: users can only search for other accounts. Mosseri said that the team is working on giving users the ability to edit messages that have been posted — a function Twitter users have been calling for for years. Currently, it is only available for a fee.

Meta warned users that what they have seen may change in the coming days or weeks. One of the main changes will be advertising. On Wednesday browsing Threads was reminiscent of Twitter in its early years because it was all messages and no ads. Meta, which makes much of its revenue from selling its users’ browsing information, is unlikely to keep it an ad-free site.

Not available in the EU

Threads will not, for the time being, be available in the European Union. As Bloomberg revealed Wednesday night, Meta wants to know how its data will be regulated in the EU before launching its new service.

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