In the landscape of popular social media companies aiming for your attention, a new contender has emerged: Threads. Launched by Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, Threads is a messaging app designed to help you stay connected, similar to how Twitter/X works where you “follow” people. In less than a week since its introduction, Threads has already achieved a major milestone as it hits over 100 million sign-ups. This rapid growth, largely organic, has sent ripples through social media, prompting questions about its potential to disrupt the current social media giants, particularly Twitter. Twitter also recently announced it was rebranding itself to X to become the “everything app” similar to WeChat in China, so the rest of 2023 looks to be an interesting time for social media companies! In this blog, we’re going to look at the rise of Threads, and why you shouldn’t write off Twitter/X just yet.
Should Twitter/X be Worried About Threads?
In the world of social media, change is the only constant. Platforms rise and fall, and the king of the hill today might be tomorrow’s Myspace. Twitter/X, with its unique blend of brevity and immediacy, has long held a secure position in the social media landscape. But with the rapid rise of Threads, it’s worth asking: should Twitter/X be worried?
Threads, in its early days, has already shown that users will sign up. With over 100 million sign-ups in less than a week, it’s clear that Threads is resonating with users. This is largely organic growth, mind you, and Meta hasn’t even turned on many promotions yet. If this trend continues, Threads could soon become a major player in the social media space. One thing that Meta has done extremely well is importing your profile from Instagram.
Twitter/X’s recent policy changes and technical glitches have left many users frustrated. The “temporary limits” on the number of posts users could see, the website crashes and the changes to the verification system have all contributed to a sense of dissatisfaction among Twitter/X users. Threads, with its clean slate and promise of a user-friendly experience, could be an attractive alternative.
Finally, there’s the issue of advertising. Twitter/X, like most social media platforms, relies heavily on advertising revenue. Threads, on the other hand, is currently ad-free. While it remains to be seen how Threads will monetize, the absence of ads could be another factor in keepings users engaged.
A Quick Trip Down Memory Lane: App.net
In the halls of social media history, a chapter often gets overlooked: the story of App.net. Launched in 2012 by Mixed Media Labs, App.net was a bold attempt to challenge Twitter/X’s dominance in the microblogging space. It was a time when Twitter/X shut off its API, leaving third-party apps out in the cold. This move by Twitter/X sparked a wave of discontent among developers and users alike, and App.net sought to capitalize on users’ dissatisfaction with Twitter/X.
App.net was designed as an ad-free social networking platform, a major contrast to the ad-driven model of Twitter/X. It was a platform that championed the cause of openness, allowing users to write messages of up to 256 characters and encouraging the use and development of third-party applications – which was the exact opposite of Twitter/X.
The platform was crowdfunded, with a goal of $500,000 and about 10,000 backers. It exceeded this goal, raising approximately $750,000 with over 11,000 backers. This clearly indicated the appetite for an alternative to Twitter/X.
However, despite its promising start, App.net struggled to gain significant traction and retain users. It did manage to hit 100,000 users in May 2013, but it was a far cry from Twitter/X’s user base. The platform also introduced a freemium service in 2013, allowing users with a paid plan to invite people to get a free tier account with a few limitations. Ultimately, people still gravitated back to Twitter/X.
In the end, App.net couldn’t sustain its momentum. Subscription renewals were poor, and by 2014, the platform had to let go of its full-time development staff. The platform was finally shut down in March 2017.
The story of App.net serves as a reminder of the major challenges faced by new platforms trying to disrupt established players. As Threads takes on Twitter/X, it would do well to learn from the lessons of App.net. Just because you start strong – doesn’t mean you’ll survive.
Another Trip Down Memory Lane: Google+
Google+ should also stand as a stark reminder of the fleeting nature of initial success. Launched by Google in 2011, Google+ was the tech giant’s ambitious foray into the world of social networking. It was designed to rival Facebook, offering a range of features designed to foster interaction and engagement. The initial response was overwhelming, with Google announcing that the platform had officially surpassed 10 million users shortly after its launch.
The excitement around Google+ was hard to ignore. In the company’s second-quarter earnings call, Google CEO Larry Page expressed his excitement about the response to Google+, which he said: “lets you share just like in real life.” He touted the platform’s clean, user-friendly design and features like circles and hangouts miming real-life human interactions. The platform was in a “field trial” mode, with a limited number of users who could invite their friends and family. Despite these limitations, Google+ saw “a ton of activity,” with more than 1 billion items shared and received daily during the first few weeks
However, as we now know, this initial success was not a guarantee of long-term survival. Google+ struggled to maintain its momentum and user base. Despite its impressive start, the platform couldn’t keep up with the competition. Users found the platform’s features confusing and less intuitive compared to other social networks like Facebook and Twitter/X.
Ultimately, Google+ was shut down in April 2019, less than a decade after its launch. Its rapid rise and fall serve as a cautionary tale in the world of social media when you try to compete against Twitter/X and Facebook.
As we look at the rise of Threads and its challenge to Twitter/X, it’s worth keeping the story of Google+ in mind. Rapid growth and initial user engagement are important, but they’re only part of the equation. The real test is whether a platform can sustain that momentum, continue to innovate, and take users away from the “other site.”
Why ‘Me Too’ Products Rarely Win: The Challenge of Innovation in a Competitive Market
Companies are constantly striving to create the next big thing, the product that will revolutionize the market and capture consumers’ hearts (and wallets). But there’s a trap that many fall into: the allure of the ‘me too’ product. These are products that, rather than breaking new ground for users, mimic the features and functionality of a successful competitor. While this strategy might seem like a shortcut to success, it rarely pans out in the long run.
Firstly, ‘me too’ products are inherently playing catch-up. They’re entering a market where another product has already established dominance, and that’s a tough battle to fight. Consumers have already invested time and money into the leading product, and convincing them to switch requires more than just a similar feature set. It requires a compelling reason to change, and ‘me too’ products often struggle to provide that. Simply said: it either needs to be 10x better or 10x cheaper.
Secondly, ‘me too’ products often underestimate the power of brand loyalty. This is especially true in technology, where users become comfortable with a particular ecosystem and are reluctant to leave. Think about the dozens of MP3 players that tried to overtake the iPod. They might have matched or even exceeded the iPod’s features, but they couldn’t overcome the strength of Apple’s brand and those popular white headphones.
But perhaps the most compelling reason why ‘me too’ products rarely win is that true innovation often comes from a new generation of products, not from imitating the old. The best way to beat a successful product is usually to make it obsolete. This is precisely what Apple did with the iPhone. Rather than trying to create a better MP3 player, they redefined the market with a product that was not just a music player but a phone and a pocket computer as well. The iPhone didn’t just beat the iPod; it rendered it irrelevant.
Prediction: Threads Will Survive, but Twitter/X Will Thrive
Threads has undoubtedly made a splash, with Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg claiming that the platform reached over 100 million sign-ups in less than a week. However, according to a HuffPost report, the growth of Threads is slowing down. This could be an early sign that the initial excitement is wearing off, and the platform will need to work hard to maintain its user base and continue to pull users from Twitter/X. Threads is also not available outside of the US.
Meanwhile, Twitter/X remains the default town square of the internet. Despite the rise of Threads and other competitors, Twitter/X’s user base remains strong and active. Even those who are using Threads are still using Twitter/X. This is a testament to Twitter/X’s staying power and the loyalty of its users. When you turn on any TV news show, they all show the @ handle of the person on the screen. No company is overtaking that enriched market power. Even if it could, it could be argued that no company should wield that much power.
Twitter/X has weathered competition before (App.net, Google+, etc). It has seen multiple challenges from numerous ‘me too’ products and has managed to stay relevant through constant innovation and adaptation. The rise of Threads is just the latest challenge, and it’s one that Twitter/X is well-equipped to handle. Twitter/X’s not perfect, but it’s still the king of the hill.
In conclusion, while Threads has made an impressive start with user growth, it’s too early to write Twitter/X’s obituary. Twitter/X has proven its resilience time and again as the main internet town square, and there’s no reason to believe it won’t do so again. So, while Threads will likely survive and find its niche, Twitter/X is poised to continue to thrive.
FAQ: Differences Between Threads and Twitter/X
Threads currently lacks a full-fledged web client, unlike Twitter/X. Twitter/X limits posts to 240 characters, while Threads allows up to 500 characters. Videos on Twitter/X are limited to 2 minutes, 20 seconds, while Threads allows up to 5 minutes. Twitter/X uses hashtags for tracking trends, but Threads currently lacks this feature. Twitter/X also offers user-curated feeds, bookmarks, and a subscription service, Twitter/X Blue, which are not available on Threads.
Threads benefits from Meta’s network effect. It’s currently available for Instagram users in the U.S., allowing millions of people to easily sign up. This could potentially give Threads a significant boost once it becomes more user-friendly and starts running ads.
Twitter/X has a long-standing verified user program. You can pay $8 per month on Twitter/X as part of Twitter/X Blue to receive a verified profile.
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