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Instagram has announced the highly anticipated launch of Threads, a text-based social networking app that aims to challenge Twitter’s dominance in the space. The app allows Instagram users to post short updates, including text up to 500 characters, links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes long. Threads is available on iOS and Android in 100 countries but is not yet accessible in the EU due to concerns regarding data privacy regulations.
Users can log in to Threads using their existing Instagram credentials, and their username and verification status will carry over. However, Threads profiles can be customized independently. The app’s target market includes high-profile celebrities, influencers, and artists, and it offers a range of features tailored to their needs.
While Twitter’s decentralized protocol, the AT Protocol, has gained popularity through its rival Bluesky, Instagram’s Threads plans to support ActivityPub, the same protocol used by Mastodon and other federated apps. This move will enable Threads to expand its user base, as Mastodon’s ecosystem already engages 1.7 million active users. However, the exact timeline for implementing this feature remains uncertain.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, emphasized the importance of ActivityPub support, stating that it enables users to retain their audience even if they decide to leave Threads or face de-platforming. This choice puts Threads in competition with other Mastodon clients like Ivory and Mammoth, as well as Flipboard, Medium, and Automattic, which have also invested in the Mastodon ecosystem amid the Twitter exodus. Some have expressed concerns that Meta’s entry into the decentralized social web may lead to an “embrace, extend, and extinguish” strategy, similar to how Google dominated web-based email.
Threads is expected to become decentralized and compatible with Mastodon through ActivityPub, offering users a platform to share their thoughts. However, Meta’s track record with standalone apps raises questions about Threads’ long-term success. The company has shut down numerous apps in the past, including Hello, Moves, Paper, Poke, and Camera, among others.
To access Threads, users need to authenticate using their Instagram login credentials. The app populates with their existing account details, such as name, username, photo, and followers. Verification status will also transfer to the new app. Additionally, the integration with Instagram enables easy sign-up and carries over users’ block lists and Community Guidelines.
Apart from Threads, Instagram has been exploring additional avenues for user connection, including the launch of “broadcast channels” in February 2023. This feature allows creators to connect more directly with followers through text, images, polls, reactions, GIFs, and more in users’ Instagram inboxes. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has utilized this feature to share product news.
Developers and reverse engineers have been digging into Instagram’s code to uncover details about Threads. Alessandro Paluzzi, a well-known leaker, discovered that the app supports 500 characters, surpassing Twitter’s 280 characters for non-paying users but falling short of the 10,000-character limit for paid subscribers. The app was even referred to as “an Instagram for your thoughts” during its development. Social media consultant Matt Navarra reported that Meta was actively seeking early adopters, particularly high-profile influencers and celebrities, to test the app before its official release.
The success of Threads remains to be seen, given Meta’s history with standalone apps. However, with its integration with Instagram and the addition of new features, Threads has the potential to capture the attention of users looking for a text-based social networking experience.