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Features, The Grid

Threads Needs to End its Identity Crisis After Crossing the One-Year Mark

What Meta’s Threads needs to do after a relatively successful one-year of existence.

  • Johnson Opeisa
  • 9th July 2024

One year can be a lot of time or a blink, depending on the lens you’re viewing from. When it comes to social media platforms, the journey to prominence varies. It took Facebook years before it became a mainstay social community, while TikTok exploded in months. However, Meta’s Threads— which was heralded as Twitter’s (now X) competitor—finds itself in between after a year-long coming of age, despite the rocket race it took off with, in its ambitious attempt to displace Twitter which most netizens weren’t cool with at the time.


At a point where users were growing impatient with Twitter for its rate limits update— a development that restricts the number of tweets each user can see daily—Meta seized the opportunity to launch an Instagram-linked alternative: Threads, on July 5, 2023, recording a staggering 30 million sign-ups within 24 hours.


That might not sound impressive without context; it took the almighty Facebook and Twitter over two years to garner 10 million sign-ups. However, despite Threads’ historic launch, predictable brief decline and continuous steady growth, it invariably lost the “Twitter killer’’ race like other social media platforms (Mastodon, Bluesky and Truth Social) that set out to give the Elon Musk-owned social network a run for its money.


Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s first-anniversary Threads post on July 5, 2024, confirms that the social network has grown to 175 million monthly active users despite what looks like a deserted community to the lot of us who only used the platform when it was popular to do so. But while Meta’s team might be content with this retention, a clinical look at its one-year existence depicts a platform that’s flirting with borrowed identities amidst the struggle to offer a unique value proposition, and this goes beyond the fact that it offered little—if not nothing—that was not already available from other social media platforms.


This can well be traced to where it all started a year ago.


Threads’ Copycat Gamble: Growth and the Cost of Mimicry


Let’s face it, though Musk and his team didn’t follow through on their threats to file a lawsuit against Zuckerberg and Meta for allegedly copying Twitter’s features to create Threads, the similarities in offerings do more than pass off as a rival’s emergence. Only a few features like direct messages, trending hashtags, search functionality, “following feed,’’ and, of course, the inimitable compelling real-time public conversations on Twitter were the notable omissions in the early weeks of Threads’ rollout.


Perhaps, that much should be expected from Twitter’s immediate ex-owners. But while the similarities in features may seem like an insignificant factor in Threads’ rapid early growth, its 370-day-long dependence on Instagram calls for discussion.


Meta’s aim for the integration then was to improve Instagram’s social capabilities from a photo and video-sharing-centric platform to a more interactive and immersive space for sharing text updates, hence the creation of Threads which, to be honest, seems so much like opening a link in a new tab. This Siamese bond was particularly frustrating when users couldn’t delete their Threads profile without losing their Instagram account. But while that has been sorted, you still can’t create a Threads account without an IG account, and your IG account ID, name, username, and profile picture are still automatically shared data across both Meta’s platforms.


Considering Threads’ monthly users, the only reason anyone might call its one-year existence an underachievement is if it were discussed in the same breath as a more established social network like Twitter. Yes, it was initially touted as a potential rival—largely due to the timing of its launch and features—but that’s hardly the case now.


Indiscriminate modifications to the foundational features that have retained 175 million monthly users are more likely to do more harm than good. Thus, the only viable route for Threads to resolve its identity and value proposition challenges lies in separating from Instagram and establishing a unique identity in its second-year journey.

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