Just two weeks in, the new car smell’s already wearing off. Threads’ traffic is down. According to data analytics company Similarweb, the total number of people scrolling, tapping, and posting on Threads daily (primarily via Androids in these particular metrics), dropped from 49 million during week one to 23.6 million near the start of week two.
The time people spend on the app is tanking too, down to less than a third of what it was during the first week, from 21 minutes on July 7th to just over six minutes on July 14th.
I think this is good news — for us. Six minutes seems a whole lot healthier than 60.
I hope Meta’s powers-that-be ignore these metrics altogether. They need to focus on ways to provide a service that doesn’t have anything to do with sucking us in for umpteen hours every day, not to mention how much of our lives they can dominate and exploit to make a buck.
Also? This is no surprise. It’s human nature. Audiences today are fickle. We’re all in on the latest, greatest, shiny new tech thing—in this case, the so-called “Twitter-killer—but we also have notoriously short attention spans.
For instance, when I posted about needing to go to sleep versus getting sucked into more hours on Threads during its earliest days, my Gen Z friend Maya replied, “This was me the first days. Now the newness has worn off.”
The app was only five days old at that point.
What are the issues with Threads?
For starters, it’s only been two weeks. Give it a hot minute to settle in. (Threads’ traffic is down, but that is not irreversible.)
For those old enough to remember the early days of Twitter, Threads is already lightyears ahead.
The good parts of it need to stay good; it’s clean, sane, and relatively ad-free. The posts and comments somehow manage to remain positive, even when people disagree. That’s a breath of fresh air, for sure.
That said, Meta’s Threads team needs to go all-in on an edit button, browser version, chronological, and following feeds. They need to do it this week or next to avoid more people dropping like flies.
They also need to make bold moves: Let people choose whether to see ads (maybe with a subscription service like Netflix or Hulu). Sink a ton of money into protecting our privacy, providing consistent and clear content moderation, and putting up guardrails against abuse and misinformation.
Remember, Threads launched as a bare-bones 1.0 beta version. So far, it’s working as a quick proof of concept that people want a safe and sane place for intelligent text-based public conversations.
We’re watching this app get made in real-time, and people in charge, like Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, at least come across like they care about our feedback. This is rare and has been quite refreshing. If you head to one of their Threads accounts and browse around their replies, it looks like they’re listening and responding to us and making changes that matter.
Meta just rolled out the first of many updates, including a translate button, a tab on your activity feed to show who’s followed you, and the option to subscribe to and get notifications from accounts you don’t follow. (If these new features haven’t shown up on your Threads feed yet, give it one more day or close out the app and reopen it.)
Does Threads have a browser version?
No. You can’t actively use Threads on your desktop or laptop, and that’s a huge problem. It’s another one of those features Threads is working on, but it needs to be a top priority.
Millions of us cannot type as quickly or as well from our smartphones. That’s one of the reasons I have never used Instagram as much as Facebook or Twitter. People like me are among the masses who “talk” through a keyboard. If you want more of my attention and overall engagement, get on my laptop.
Don’t overlook this simple fact too; it’s easier to scroll through social when pretending to be working on a browser.
There is a way to get Threads on Windows, and other skilled workarounds, but they’re never going to be mainstream because they’re too hard for non-techies.
Threads Vs Twitter
Even though Threads’ traffic is down, it is doing better than Twitter on several fronts, no matter what message its embattled owner Elon Musk tweets about Threads.
As spammers flock to Threads, Mosseri posted that they are cracking down and people might get impacted by “rate limits.”
People at Twitter, including Musk himself, were quick with snarky comments–since Musk also instituted rate limits earlier this month.
But they aren’t the same. Musks limited the number of tweets you can see in a day. His seemingly knee-jerk change kept many people on Twitter from seeing content on the platform after as little as ten minutes. That led to some of the massive backlash that drove people to Threads in its first few days.
Threads is doing what most social media platforms—including Twitter—have done for a long time to target spammy-ick. The site might limit the number of comments you can make quickly and people you can follow in a certain amount of time to thwart trolls and thieves.
Musk has also said that ad revenue on Twitter is down 50%.
While Threads hasn’t started selling ad space yet, web development company Website Planet analyzed 30 brand accounts on the new platform next to those same accounts on Twitter. It found that all the brands, from McDonald’s to USA Today, are getting more engagement on Threads, even though they have more followers on Twitter. “87% of the brands generated more likes on Threads than on Twitter,” the report shows online. “On average, these brands saw eight times more likes on the new platform,” it states.
Is Threads the Twitter Killer…or?
Another major issue with Threads is news. People migrated en masse to Threads to replace what used to be the “gold stand for real-time news.”
Pre-Elon Twitter—and maybe even more accurately—pre-Donald Trump Twitter, were my go-to places to follow breaking news. It’s also where I went to find credible sources for stories like this one.
Mosseri has, so far, shunned news, saying that Threads isn’t going to encourage politics or hard news due to “scrutiny, negativity, and integrity risks.”
That’s a mistake. The masses miss it and want to see verified and vetted news evolve online past the current Twitter cesspool spiral.
For Threads to wipe out Twitter, it must tackle news with the best content moderation the world’s ever seen, ban polarizing public figures who peddle dangerous misinformation, and make everyone who uses the app agree to some basic rules of engagement.
Right now, celebrities, brands, and Instagram influencers dominate my Threads feed. I want to type in a quick hashtag and see what the brightest minds say about an issue or news story I care most about. I want a way to reach out to people I need to interview (DM’s).
And I want breaking news here. I need it here. Otherwise, I can’t get rid of Twitter (yet).
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
A massive fire behind our house a few summers ago destroyed three of our neighbor’s homes while flames licked at our back fence and garage. Our friends were scared that we were stuck inside the calls started flooding into our cell phones.
We were on vacation in Alaska at the time, and other than several people telling us our house was about to burn down, there was no other way to get any information.
I went to Twitter, typed in my city and street name, and saw everything unfold from morning news helicopters circling overhead. I watched firefighters beat back flames from my backyard and save our house. I was able to get help for several neighbors in real time, all from one app.
That’s a valid service. We need that.
How Can Threads Keep People Engaged?
Threads also has to be something more than “not Twitter.” They need to give it a rest with the snooze-fest marketing speak around the comparisons and embrace it.
“The goal is to create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are interested in a less angry place for conversations,” Mosseri wrote on Threads in its first week after launch.
Make no mistake; this is not a public square. It’s a for-profit business.
Advertisers are ready to spend on Threads the minute Meta lets them in. But we don’t like the lack of control that comes when big tech algorithms start reading our minds to sell us more stuff or make it next to impossible to put our phones down. And most of all? We hate when they drag our kids into it too.
“Here is the meta opportunity for Meta and for the Zuck, said author and NYU Professor Scott Galloway on his July 13th ‘The Prof G Pod’ podcast. “For the first time in … ten years, you’re actually seen as the good guy. Lean into that. Age gate some of your platforms. There’s no reason a 14-year-old girl needs to be on Instagram. Become much more stringent around content, medical information, and elections. Have a pause 90 days before the 2024 elections… [sic] This is your opportunity [Mark Zuckerberg], are you Darth Vader, or are you Anakin?”
The bottom line? We’re the product and the consumer — why not demand better all the way around? It’s impossible to make Threads perfect for all of us, but it’s entirely feasible to think beyond the silo of Silicon Valley and do right by the world at large.
Read Jennifer’s latest columns at USAToday.com/tech or follow her @JennJolly on Instagram or her website at Techish.com