One year later, what Threads can learn from other social networks

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Threads, Meta’s alternative to Twitter, recently celebrated its first birthday. Since launching on July 5 last year, the social network has reached 175 million monthly active users – a remarkable achievement. But, a year later, Threads is trying to find its voice, not being as newsy as Twitter/X and not being as open as Mastodon or BlueSky – at least for now.

Over the past year, the Threads team has rapidly introduced features and collected reactions from its users directly on the social network. Since launch, Threads has received support for multiple profiles, a web app, a TweetDeck-like interface on desktop, trending topics in the US, and custom controls for mute and quote replies.

The company has also made some progress integrating with the Fediverse. Users can connect their accounts to the ActivityPub protocol and share their posts with the Fediverse. Also, they can see likes and replies from the wider Fediverse. But they can’t follow people from other servers yet.

However, Meta can learn a lot from other social networks.

following topics

BlueSky has done a great job with custom feeds and helping people discover different content. Custom feeds are programmatic feeds that aim to pull posts related to a topic, not just limited to a single tag.

Threads implemented tags last year. But many times users share posts with different tags for an event or trend. Is it WWDC or WWDC 2024 or WWDC 24 or Apple event? You can save a search term and expect to get relevant and recent posts, but there is no way to combine them. Some kind of provision for this in the API, or a custom list implementation, would be a great addition.

Last month, Threads made its API widely available to developers. The API enables toolmakers to post content for users and display their own posts within the app.

“The Threads API enables businesses to create and publish content on behalf of an individual on Threads, and make those posts visible within the app only to the person who created it,” Meta wrote as a description of the Threads API.

This doesn’t allow developers to create third-party apps to use Threads. We wrote earlier this year that over the past few years, social networks have become stingy about user data. In the process, they’ve shut down the development of alternative experiences that could help different groups of users.

Threads’ competitors like BlueSky and Mastodon have developed an ecosystem where third-party developers can create their own clients. It’s unclear whether users will be able to choose other Mastodon clients to experience Threads once Threads achieves full integration with the Fediverse. It would be nice to have assurances that Threads is open to allowing third-party apps.

Separating Threads and Instagram

Threads built much of its user base through its Instagram integration. However, with over 175 million active users, the company could risk losing its relationship with Instagram. Initially, the Threads profile was completely tied to the user’s Instagram account. So you couldn’t delete your Threads profile without deleting your Instagram account. The company later released an update for users to deactivate or delete an account.

However, you still can’t create a profile that’s separate from an Instagram account. Also, there’s no way to DM people unless you visit their Instagram.

However, there is still a ray of hope in this area. In an interview with Platformer’s Casey Newton, Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri said that the company is thinking about moving in this direction.

“My hope is that Threads will become more independent over time. It’s still deeply integrated with Instagram — you can sign in with the same account, you automatically follow the same accounts, and we show Threads content on Instagram. But over time, I’d like it to become more and more independent. We’re working on things like Threads-only accounts and data separation,” Mosseri told Platformer.

News and politics

Threads and Mosseri have taken the stance that they are not actively promoting or amplifying news and political content on the platform. Despite this, political topics do surface from time to time in places like Trending Topics. Right now, these topics are focused only on US politics, but as they come to other areas, there will be times when political content dominates the social network. And the company must refine the product in a way that it can handle extremes without stifling news.

X’s Community Notes program isn’t perfect, and often contains mistakes or is biased. Sometimes, however, it succeeds in providing useful context. When it comes to news, Mastodon recently introduced a feature to show the byline associated with the author’s account on the social network.

The “For You” Algorithm

I admit it. No social network’s algorithm is perfect. Video platforms like TikTok have moved the needle in a positive direction in terms of showing interesting posts.

In comparison, Threads’ “For You” feed sometimes seems bizarre. Many people have written about strange posts appearing on their feed that seem outside their realm of interest.

Lately, I’ve seen posts about people asking “Where are you from?” and talking about how hard the single life or dating is. I’m not sure what I did that started it all. But Threads needs to work on making the “For You” algorithm more palatable when showing random posts on the timeline.

Better local content

To surface local content, Threads need not look further than Instagram, which has developed partnership teams in various countries. Before Elon Musk took over, Twitter too had partnership teams in various regions that focused on surfacing relevant content.

Threads released live scores for the NBA, MLS, and even Euro 2024. But it missed an opportunity to engage cricket fans with live scores during the T20 World Cup last month — this morning, the company published a blog post noting that “India is one of the most active countries on Threads globally.”

However, there are some areas for improvement given the pace of feature releases, but we may see some of these areas being addressed soon. Threads has been friendly with Mastodon and doesn’t really care for BlueSky. But if we are to believe Mosseri, the ultimate goal is to beat Twitter.

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