Dropped thread? Don’t count out Instagram’s new Twitter rival

A Wall Street Journal article on Friday warned that Instagram’s new Twitter competitor Threads was losing steam. Citing third-party data from Sensor Tower, the newspaper reported the number of daily active users on Threads fell for the second week to 13 million, a 70% drop from its July 7 high. In comparison, Twitter’s daily active users are around 200 million. Despite this seemingly worrying trend, it’s too early to count Threads. By other metrics, apps continue to grow their user base and appeal in global markets, which, in time, could also increase their usage — especially as app feature sets increase.

It is expected that the highly anticipated new app will have an incredible amount of usage in its early days as users set up their accounts, find and follow friends, and test the app’s capabilities. As novelty wears off, it’s also common to see a drop in usage as users revert to old habits while determining whether and how they will continue to fit new apps into their daily routine. Additionally, The WSJ points out, Meta executives say they plan for an eventual decline and don’t see this drop in usage as a cause for concern.

Neither do we. The thread is still too new and too incomplete to determine its eventual fate. Could it be the initial record breaker that ultimately failed? Of course. But it can also be a legitimate Twitter killer or mid-level success. It’s still too early to tell.

Launching on July 5 to global markets excluding the EU, Threads surpassed 100 million users within days of its arrival — becoming the fastest app to reach that milestone, ahead of Pokémon GO, according to app intelligence firm data. ai. During its first three days, Twitter had 18.3% of Twitter’s daily active users, or 54.4 million of Twitter’s 298 million. As of last week, estimates the app still has about a fifth of Twitter’s weekly active user base.

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App installs for Threads peaked on July 9, days after launch, when 24.5 million people downloaded the app globally on iOS and Android, said. But even though initial rumors may have faded, the app has continued to record 1 million new downloads daily for the past few days, ranging from 1.76 million on July 16 to 1.06 million on July 20, for example. Any new app on the market would be happy to see numbers like these, though perhaps Threads should be judged a bit harder for it benefits from the network effect afforded by the nature of its parent app Instagram and broader Meta resources. estimates the app has now seen 185.32 million cumulative global downloads.

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Another important point to note is that Threads is popular in emerging mobile markets where downloads are still growing. The US is only the third largest market, analysis shows. As of July 17, India and Brazil accounted for the larger number of installs, at 60.1 million (32.6%) and 40.2 million (21.8%), respectively. The US shipped 27.8 million downloads or 15.1%. That’s why analytics companies Similar site an analysis of US Android usage drops — 21 minutes on July 7 to 6 minutes on July 14 — can’t tell the whole story.

While Threads usage may have been in decline for now, as Censor Tower data shows, early usage numbers point to its potential as a Twitter rival. In the first few days on the market, Threads users spent an average of 15 minutes per day in the app, across 9.4 app sessions. That’s more than the “microblogging” category average, which says includes Twitter, Truth Social, Mastodon and Bluesky. Microblogging users then spent 12.5 minutes per day, on average, across 7.8 app sessions.

What’s stopping people from using Threads these days may not be disappointment with the concept of the app itself, but rather its current feature set, compared to Twitter. Threads, although now publicly available, are effectively still beta — unfinished applications — without a number of features users want in a microblogging tool, such as a chronological timeline, following feeds, the ability to see your likes, a fully functional web version, edit buttons, support for multiple accounts, and more. These features are still a work in progress, along with the planned integration of Threads with ActivityPub, the protocol that underpins Mastodon’s open source Twitter alternative.

Become one thread on thread (ha), in fact, users rushed to defend the app against the narrative that it was dead, saying that people should be more patient and wait for needed features, and reminding others that not even Instagram was an overnight success.

Another post, led by social media consultant Matt Navarra, asked “the thread is…” To this, the head of Instagram Adam Mosseri replied “work in progress.” Among hundreds of other replies, many posted positive messages, calling the app an “opportunity,” better than Twitter, “inspirational,” “interesting,” and more — an indication that Threads has already built a fan community.

Another indication is the app’s US App Store rating, a rating of 3.8 stars from 20,000 reviews. Diving into where it lost points, it seems that many of those who downgraded the app did so for its incomplete nature, calling it a “promising start” but removing stars for lack of certain features. In comparison, Instagram has a 4.7 star rating and Facebook has a 2.3 rating. Another thing Threads likes, based on this review and other online conversations, is that the app, for now, feels “less toxic” than Twitter, several users said.

While Twitter users already dancing on Threads grave, thanks to the WSJ report, in fact it is too early to report Threads’ second week of usage declines and come to the conclusion that Threads is dying. An app that is breaking records and continues to add users still has a lot of runway ahead and has time to deliver the features people want, to regain traction.

Even seven-year-old Mastodon, Twitter’s decentralized social networking rival, continues to grow after Elon Musk’s missteps with Twitter. After Twitter’s acquisition, Mastodon peaking at 2.5 million monthly active users. When Threads launched, Mastodon had fallen to 1.7 million monthly users. Since then it started growing again, now it is visible 2.1 million monthly active users. These things ebb and flow.

There’s also an online culture that’s more willing to experiment with new apps — whether it’s Twitter alternatives like Threads and Bluesky, Reddit alternatives like Lemmy and Kbin, or new ways to network like TikTok instead of the old-fashioned Facebook.

Also, for Threads to succeed, Twitter doesn’t have to fail miserably. Users can choose between them or they can use both. It’s not necessarily a zero-sum game.

That said, Meta doesn’t have a great track record of launching successful new apps after closing pretty much everything it’s built (rather than just acquired) over the years. Threads could one day be another app added to its grave.

But in the meantime, the app with now estimated 116 million users and grow away from the word “dead”.

Image Credit: Quiver Quant

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