Why the Early Success of Threads May Crash Into Reality (2023)



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Social Media Memo

Mark Zuckerberg has used Meta’s might to push Threads to a fast start — but that may only work up to a point.

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Why the Early Success of Threads May Crash Into Reality (1)

ByMike Isaac

Mike Isaac has reported on social media for more than 13 years and has signed up for dozens of social networks over the past 25 years.

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A big tech company with billions of users introduces a new social network. Leveraging the popularity and scale of its existing products, the company intends to make the new social platform a success. In doing so, it also plans to squash a leading competitor’s app.

If this sounds likeInstagram’s new Threads appand its push against its rival Twitter, think again. The year was 2011 and Google had just rolled out a social network called Google+, which was aimed as its “Facebook killer.” Google thrust the new site in front of many of its users who relied on its search and other products, expanding Google+ to more than 90 million users within the first year.

But by 2018, Google+ was relegated to the ash heap of history. Despite the internet search giant’s enormous audience, its social network failed to catch on as people continued flocking to Facebook — and later to Instagram and other social apps.

In the history of Silicon Valley, big tech companies have often become even bigger tech companies by using their scale as a built-in advantage. But as Google+ shows, bigness alone is no guarantee of winning the fickle and faddish social media market.

This is the challenge thatMark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, now faces as he tries to dislodge Twitter and make Threads the prime app for real-time, public conversations. If tech history is any guide, size and scale are solid footholds — but ultimately can only go so far.

What comes next is much harder. Mr. Zuckerberg needs people to be able to find friends and influencers on Threads in the serendipitous and sometimes weird ways that Twitter managed to accomplish. He needs to make sure Threads isn’t filled with spam and grifters. He needs people to be patient about app updates that are in the works.

In short, he needs users to find Threads compelling enough to keep coming back.


“If you launch a gimmick app or something that isn’t fully featured quite yet, it might be counterproductive and you could see a lot of people churn right back out the door,” said Eric Seufert, an independent mobile analyst who closely watches Meta’s apps.

For the moment, Threads appears to be an overnight success. Within hours of the app’s introduction last Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg said 10 million people had signed up for Threads. By Monday, that had soared to 100 million people. It was the first app to do so in that time frame, exceedingthe chatbot ChatGPT,which gained 100 million users within two months of its release, according to the analytics firm Similarweb.

Mr. Seufert, the mobile analyst, called the numbers that Threads had racked up “objectively impressive and unprecedented.”

Elon Musk, who owns Twitter, has appeared agitated by Threads’ momentum. With 100 million people, Threads is quickly surging toward some of Twitter’s last public user numbers. Twitterdisclosedit had 237.8 million daily users last July, four months before Mr. Musk bought the company and took it private.

Mr. Musk has taken action. On the same day last week that Threads was officially unveiled, Twitter threatened to sue Meta over the new app. On Sunday, Mr. Musk called Mr. Zuckerberg a “cuck” on Twitter. Then he challenged Mr. Zuckerberg to a contest to measure a specific body part and compare whose was larger, alongside an emoji of a ruler. Mr. Zuckerberg has not responded.

(Before Threads was announced, Mr. Musk separately dared Mr. Zuckerberg to fighta “cage match.”)

What Mr. Musk lacks at Twitter, Mr. Zuckerberg has in abundance at Meta: enormous audiences. More than three billion users regularly visit Mr. Zuckerberg’s constellation of apps, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Mr. Zuckerberg has had plenty of experience nudging millions of people in those apps to use another of the apps.In 2014, for instance, he removed Facebook’s private messaging service from inside the social network’s app and forced people to download another app, called Messenger, to continue using the service.

Threads is now tied closely to Instagram. Users are required to have an Instagram account to sign up. People can import their entire following list from Instagram to Threads with just one tap of the screen, saving them from trying to find new people to follow on the service.

On Monday, Mr. Zuckerberg suggested there was more he could do to push Threads’ growth. He had not “turned on many promotions yet” for the app, he wrote in a Threads post.

Some users have wondered why Threads seems to have made its debut without some basic functions that are used inside Instagram, like a search function that allows people to browse trending hashtags.

“There are a lot of features Threads did not launch with, possibly by design, to keep it brand safe” and minimize controversy from the start, said Anil Dash, a tech industry veteran and writer. “What does that do to the long-term interesting-ness of the network?”

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in a Threads post on Monday that there was a running list of new features to add to the new app that people have requested. “They say, ‘make it work, make it great, make it grow,’” he wrote, adding, “I promise we will make this thing great.”

Yet bolting on a new app to a company’s existing products can eventually run out of steam.

In 2011, after Larry Page, Google’s co-founder and its chief executive at the time, cloned Facebook with Google+, users soon grew bored of the novelty of the new social network and stopped using it. Some saw Google+ as something that was forced on them while they were just trying to gain access to their Gmail.


Former Google employees described the product as “fear-based,” built only in response to Facebook and without a clear vision of why people should be using it instead of a competing network. In a post-mortem of what went wrong, one ex-Googlerwrotethat Google+ mainly defined itself by “what it wasn’t — i.e. Facebook.”

Of course Mr. Zuckerberg could pull a Bill Gates with Threads. Mr. Gates, a founder of Microsoft, built his empire on Windows, the operating system that powered a generation of personal computers — and then successfully used that scale to crush competitors.

Once Windows dominated PCs, Mr. Gates famously bundled other products with the software for free. When he did that in 1995 by packaging the web browser Internet Explorer with Windows, Internet Explorer soon turned into the default browser on millions of computers, overtaking the then-dominant browser,Netscape, in just four years.

Even so, Mr. Gates was eventually stung by the tactic. In 1998, the Justice Department sued Microsoft for unfairly using Windows’ market power to snuff out the competition. In 2000, a federal judgeruled against Mr. Gates’s company, saying Microsoft had put an “oppressive thumb on the scale of competitive fortune.”

Microsoft later settled with the government and agreed to make concessions.

Mike Isaacis a technology correspondent and the author of “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber,” a best-selling book on the dramatic rise and fall of the ride-hailing company. He regularly covers Facebook and Silicon Valley, and is based in San Francisco. More about Mike Isaac

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Is Threads app a success? ›

Threads has reportedly lost half of its active users in just a week as Zuckerberg claims '10s of millions now come back daily' Mark Zuckerberg. Threads has been massively successful when it comes to signing up new users in its short history, but whether it's retaining those users is up for debate.

Why are people leaving Threads? ›

But for some, the algorithm may be having the opposite effect. Because everyone hopped on Threads at once with no real understanding of the app, there wasn't a lot of content to interact with. Users were left to read Threads from corporations that all had the same message: "So ...

How successful is meta Threads? ›

Meta Threads has become the most quickly downloaded app ever. ChatGPT previously held that title, with a million downloads in the first five days of its release. Threads had 30 million downloads only a day after its release on June 5, 2023. Just a week after its release, Threads racked up 100 million users.

How did Threads grow so fast? ›

The success of Threads

Meta already has a lot of the social media infrastructure in place and being a household name gives it a headstart. “It's an advantage to be associated with a big brand,” Darrell West, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Technology Innovation, told TIME previously.

How realistic is Threads? ›

"Threads" is a realistic film still impressive in 2021. In 1984 it was scarier with the Cold War, but in the present days it is still frightening since unstable Powers that Be may press the feared button. The effects of the nuclear holocaust in the population of Sheffield is dreadful.

How many users has Threads lost? ›

Third-party data suggests that Threads may have lost many more than half of its active users. Daily active users for Threads on Android dropped from 49 million on July 7 to 23.6 million on July 14, and then to 12.6 million on July 23, web analytics company SimilarWeb reported.

What is the problem with thread? ›

However, threads destroy determinism and make it much harder to reliably predict how your program will behave. We are familiar with the types of problems that arise from using threads: mutal exclusion, deadlocks, priority inversion, and blocking inappropriately.

Are Threads losing followers? ›

Citing third-party data from Sensor Tower, the paper reports the number of daily active users on Threads dropped for the second week down to 13 million, a 70% decline from a July 7 high point. By comparison, Twitter's daily active users are around 200 million.

Is Threads app failing? ›

Despite an impressive start, with over 100 million sign-ups in its first week, recent data reports reveal that Threads' substantial drop in engagement has been witnessed within 10 days (everyday traffic). Meta's new app, Threads, which aimed to rival Twitter, is experiencing a rapid decline in popularity.

Are Threads losing momentum? ›

According to recent statistics by digital intelligence platform Similarweb, Threads' daily active users have plummeted from a high of around 49 million two days after launch to just over 9.6 million on 1 August.

Who owns Threads? ›

In conclusion, Threads is a new social media platform owned by Meta, offering a unique, text-based experience that integrates with Instagram. While it has been compared to Twitter, Threads has its own unique features and functionalities that set it apart.

How is Meta going to make money? ›

As noted above, its primary source of revenue is through digital advertising. Due to the enormous number of users and social media reach, advertisers large and small consider Meta a prime opportunity to present ads to viewers. Meta provides various ways for them to advertise, such as self-serve and targeted ads.

How long do Threads really last? ›

The long-lasting benefit threads provide is why many patients prefer a thread lift over dermal filler. PDO threads address the whole face, provide more lift, tighten the skin and can last between 12 to 18 months. The next myth explains their expiration date a little more in-depth.

Do Threads prevent aging? ›

A thread lift is also not permanent. A facelift can't stop the process of aging completely, but the results last many years. The subtle results of a thread lift usually last around 2 years. To make the results last longer, you may need dermal fillers or other therapies that cost additional time and money.

How long did it take for Threads to get 1 million users? ›

Threads: 1 hour

Meta-owned Threads joined the market with a bang. This microblogging platform achieved an astonishing feat, reaching 1 million users within just one hour after its release.

Is anyone still using Threads? ›

Sensor Tower has reported that Threads daily active user count has dropped by around 70% since launch, data.ai reports that Threads downloads have slowed significantly, and various pundits have already predicted that Meta's real-time news app is destined for failure, following its record-breaking ascent to 100 million ...

How popular is the Threads? ›

The Threads app has been downloaded more than 184 million times globally since its launch, according to Data.ai Intelligence.

Is Threads the fastest growing app in history? ›

More than 100 million users have joined Meta's new Threads platform, a feat the Twitter rival has achieved in less than five days, making the Twitter competitor the fastest-growing online platform in history.

Is Threads being discontinued? ›

That's because Threads was the name of a previous app by the same company, launched in 2019 as a companion to Instagram. It was a “camera-first” messaging app that let users share status updates and chat with their “Close friends”. However, it was discontinued in December 2021.

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