You are currently viewing Instagram Threads app may be a sneaky copy but not a Twitter dumpster fire

Instagram Threads app may be a sneaky copy but not a Twitter dumpster fire

There’s a new, shiny toy in app stores, and everybody wants it.

In just 17 hours, Instagram Threads already had more than over 30 million sign-ups, and counting. And the app isn’t yet live yet in two of the biggest markets—the EU and China. That’s quite a first punch by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg ahead of his much-anticipated “cage fight” with rival Twitter’s boss Elon Musk

But does Instagram’s new social networking app size up to the microblogging site ruling the roost for over a decade-and-a-half? After using it for 24 hours, the short answer is—yes.

Threads app is both familiar and new. It’s a like a lovechild of Twitter and Instagram—it takes something from both, but only enough to make it functional and not feel like Frankenstein’s creation. 

Made by the Instagram team and available on both Google Play Store and Apple App Store, Threads’ interface carries over many of the design specs of the photo- and video-sharing app—the elegant Instagram Sans typeface, the search and activity buttons, and even many user options such as editing and sharing the profile.

Threads also directly copies Instagram’s privacy features as users have the option of a public or private profile. You can mute notifications, hide likes, manage mentions, and block profiles—just like on Instagram.

In theory, it should be a text-based extension of Instagram—as Meta puts it, “a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations”. But let’s be honest, Threads is Twitter in disguise.

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Instagram Threads

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Instagram Threads

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Sanitised Twitter

As of now, only Instagram users can sign up on Threads. That explains the exponential rate of sign-ups but also hints at a fast-approaching ceiling—1.6 billion, according to some conservative estimates.

Upon signing up, users are given a “temporary badge” in the form of a number, also displayed on their Instagram profile to let their “followers know that you’re on Threads”. However, you can hide this badge from Instagram if you, like me, don’t want to feel like a prison inmate.

The home page itself is very Twitter-like. Users can see posts from people and the pages they follow. Every post has the option to like, reply, repost, and share. You can also refresh the scroll to see new posts, with the notification showing up to three pages and profiles that posted recently, again, just like Twitter. 

Users can also unfollow, mute, or hide the page they follow from the post itself. It also offers to anonymously report posts.

The bottom of the app has buttons to go to the home page, search profiles, write a post (thread?), look at the activity—who all followed you, replied to your posts, and tagged you in a comment. A separate tab within the activity section also shows the verified followers.

Instagram Threads

The posts, limited to 500 characters, have a very unique way of engaging with users. Rather than just showing the number of likes and replies, posts with text engagement have a string or a thread that runs along, making them stand out from those with no comments. Meta has This is cleverly designed it to prompt users to check out what’s cooking in a particular thread. 

The images also stand out. While Twitter offers multiple photos in a tiled format, Threads offers a horizontal scroll to see all the images—up to 10 at a time. Here, too, users can click on the photo to make it full-screen, but there’s no need to do it. One can read the text in the horizontal scroll itself without squinting as images take up one-third of the screen.

The new kid on the block is a little sneaky, though. Like how a Twitter user profile shows tweets and replies the person has posted, the Meta offering matches it with ‘threads’ and ‘replies’.

No wonder the microblogging site has threatened to sue Threads, accusing it of stealing “trade secrets and other intellectual property.” Twitter is one angry bird these days.

Unlike the rival that has put a limit on the number of posts—both verified and unverified users can see—Instagram Threads offers the freedom of an endless scroll without judgement if you spend your entire day on the app. 

There are also no off-handed porn clips that one comes across on Twitter every once in a while. Just a thirst trap or two on Threads to help you stay awake through the day. Also, no advertisements, at least for now, as the Meta CEO first wants to reach one billion users before he moves to monetise it

So, is it time to deactivate our Twitter accounts and switch our allegiance to Zuckerberg? Not so fast.

Chaos, everywhere

While Instagram Threads do match Twitter’s vibe, it’s akin to scrolling through the latter’s ‘For you’ section than the ‘Following’ section. One doesn’t have any control over the posts they see. Users can see every repost and reply to people and pages they don’t follow. 

Threads, certainly, isn’t designed to be your morning news feed. You wouldn’t want to be disturbed reading an interesting little piece about Central America, followed by a random mid-rib. 

And then, there are other limitations. 

There is no concept of hashtags or trending topics you can search for on the app. The search option is limited to just profiles. Also, users can’t bookmark a post as they can on Twitter. 

Threads also didn’t bother with direct messaging (DMs). To share a particular post, users can either add them to their stories on Instagram and Facebook (which show up with a Thread background), post to their Insta feeds, and surprisingly—maybe as an olive branch—tweet about it.

One doesn’t get an option to browse Instagram Threads on the web either. However, you can copy the link and share the post via a plethora of other options. 

Users can post videos running up to five minutes long but the interface for that is a little clunky as they appear off to the side, and the mute button is just too tiny to be functional. I also experienced a few glitches with the like button not working sometimes, but those creases are expected to be ironed out.

Also, users can’t delete their Threads profile without deleting their Instagram profiles as well. However, you can deactivate the profile, but it will remain on the servers.

All in all, Instagram Threads comes as a breath of fresh air, especially as Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter has left a bad taste for its users who have to bear constant policy U-turns, feed limitations, ransom-like monetisation, and layoffs at the company.

However, Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino is right when she says, “We’re often imitated—but the Twitter community can never be replaced.” Instagram Threads, unlike Twitter, doesn’t have bots to trend divisive issues and polarise communities, at least for now. The app is on a honeymoon period of meme-sharing and people pouring their hearts out.

But no matter how often Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko may claim a “massive surge” of users onboarding the German app from the microblogging site, Twitter finally sees a rival in Instagram Threads.

Edited by Suman Singh

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