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Meta’s Threads Aims to Overtake Twitter as Major Rival to Musk’s X

  • 5 min read
The article was last updated by verifiedtasks on July 4, 2024.

Meta’s Threads is emerging as a formidable adversary to Elon Musk’s X, boasting 175 million active users within its first year.

Short Summary:

  • Threads reaches 175 million active users
  • Launched as a rival to Musk’s Twitter/X
  • Focus on lighter content over political discourse

Meta’s Threads app, positioned as a direct competitor to Elon Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter), has reached an impressive milestone of 175 million monthly active users as it celebrates its first anniversary. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed his excitement, stating in a post, “what a year” encapsulating the sentiment around this burgeoning platform.

Launched in July 2023, Threads capitalized on the discontent many users felt due to significant changes implemented by Musk at Twitter. These changes included mass layoffs, a reshaped verification system, and relaxed content moderation, all justified under Musk’s vision of promoting “absolute free speech.” Such shifts led many users to seek alternatives, a gap that Meta seized under the stewardship of Zuckerberg.

“Threads received an initial boost from Twitter’s missteps, but it can’t rely on X defectors to continue to grow,” said Jasmine Enberg, Insider Intelligence principal analyst.

Upon its debut, Threads rapidly garnered millions of users, thanks largely to the seamless integration with Instagram, allowing users to sign up quickly and easily. However, despite this strong start, Threads ranks near the bottom of popular social media platforms in the U.S., just ahead of Tumblr. According to Insider Intelligence’s forecast, Threads will have 23.7 million U.S. users by the end of 2023, whereas X is projected to have 56.1 million U.S. users.

The success of Threads lies in its ability to offer a compelling alternative to X, which several analyst firms, including Insider Intelligence, have indicated is losing users under Musk’s leadership. The unique identity Threads is carving out is crucial, as stated by Enberg:

“Threads needs to establish an identity that’s more than an extension of Instagram or an alternative to X.”

Zuckerberg and the Meta team have consistently iterated that their primary focus isn’t just on user numbers. This strategy was echoed by Instagram head Adam Mosseri, who highlighted the importance of cultural relevance over sheer user acquisition numbers. This is evidenced by Threads’ deliberate push towards lighter, more engaging content and less emphasis on the politically charged discourse that has become typical of X.

However, despite the impressive growth, Threads is not without its challenges. Its initial burst of growth has decelerated significantly. The platform’s user base saw an addition of 7.5 million active users per month between October 2023 and February 2024, but this figure has since dropped to 5 million monthly new active users in the most recent three-month period. The platform currently stands as a significant contender, but its momentum has notably slowed.

There are mixed feelings about the timing of Threads’ rollout, which seemed to directly capitalize on Twitter’s tumult. David Karpf, an associate professor at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, noted:

“Meta decided to develop Threads because Musk’s Twitter was falling apart.”

Threads debuted with some significant missing features, such as a reverse chronological feed and comprehensive search functionality. Despite its quick uptake among users, concerns remain about whether it can rival X in terms of providing real-time updates and serving niche communities, like sports fans, that remain loyal to X.

Meta’s approach of encouraging a positive and lighter discourse is strategic. According to Mosseri, there’s a concerted effort to avoid divisive political content while embracing real-time news relevant to events like sports and fashion. Yet, this may also hinder Threads from fully capturing the real-time engagement aspect that is pivotal to platforms like X:

“It’d be great to go to Threads and see what’s happening during the NBA finals, during the Super Bowl, during the Met Gala if you’re into fashion. So we do need to be a place for news,” said Mosseri.

Both Zuckerberg and Mosseri have indicated that Meta does not plan to monetize Threads until it grows further and becomes better established. The introduction of new features, such as a desktop version and a search tool, marks Meta’s commitment to enhancing the platform’s user experience. However, for Threads to become a more robust platform, tools like analytics are essential, as emphasized by advertisers and creators.

Even with its rapid growth, Threads faces strong competitors. Platforms like Bluesky and Mastodon have also attracted users fleeing X, but lack the scale and funding that Threads commands. Karpf highlighted:

“Threads begins with the Instagram userbase and Meta’s effectively-unlimited budget. Those are two major advantages.”

Ultimately, Threads’ ability to rival X will depend on its capacity to innovate and adapt to user needs without becoming a mere extension of Instagram. Meta’s long-standing track record with Facebook and Instagram gives it an edge, yet it must continue pushing innovation to sustain and grow its user base.

The future of Threads is still unfolding. While it has made significant inroads, especially among disillusioned X users, it faces the challenge of maintaining its growth trajectory and becoming a platform known for its distinct community and content style rather than just an alternative to its older, more established competitors.