Twitter, with over 330 million monthly active users, has faced controversy and occasional downtimes since its acquisition by Elon Musk, creating an opportunity for rival apps to emerge.

Meta has finally announced Threads, a text-based social media app that aims to rival Twitter. The release was initially teased to go live today and launched yesterday across 100 countries. This timely debut comes in response to people’s generally negative perception of Twitter since billionaire Elon Musk acquired it. Just last weekend, Twitter experienced downtimes that limited the number of tweets users could see. Musk, who holds the position of CTO at Twitter, is a controversial figure and has introduced new features on the platform. Some of these features aim to entice users to subscribe to the Twitter Blue badge for $8 per month. However, does Threads have a chance against Twitter?

All you need to know about Threads

As said, Threads is a direct competitor to Twitter. Users can sign up using their Instagram credentials and start following the same accounts they follow on Instagram. The app allows users to create posts with a maximum of 500 characters and supports various media formats, including images, gifs, and videos of up to five minutes in length. The interface is like Twitter, featuring options for liking, reposting, and quoting a thread, similar to quoted replies on Twitter. This is aimed at making Threads as familiar as possible.

In a blog post

announcing the app, Instagram said, “Mark Zuckerberg just announced the initial version of Threads, an app built by the Instagram team for sharing with text. Whether you’re a creator or a casual poster, Threads offers a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations. We are working toward making Threads compatible with the open, interoperable social networks that we believe can shape the future of the internet.”

Threads shows mixed content in users’ feeds like other social media apps. Alongside posts from followed accounts, random posts are suggested by the app’s algorithm. It is currently impossible to view exclusively the posts from accounts users follow, leaving uncertainty about whether this functionality will be implemented in the future. However, some key social media users, such as video producer MKBHD, hope Threads will listen to user feedback and let people see content from accounts they follow.

Will this ever happen? Only time will tell.

For the moment, the DM feature is not yet available on Threads. Users can also choose a private Instagram account or a public Threads account during sign-up. However, if users are below 16 or 18 (region-dependent), their Threads account, like their Instagram account, will remain private by default. Users can adjust their privacy settings anytime, allowing them to switch between public and private modes on Threads. They also control who can reply to their posts on the platform.

“Like on Instagram, you can add hidden words to filter out replies to your threads that contain specific words. You can unfollow, block, restrict, or report a profile on Threads by tapping the three-dot menu, and any accounts you’ve blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on Threads,” adds Instagram in a post.

Like Instagram, you can choose to have a private Threads profile

Threads is currently available on smartphones both for Android and iOS. It is not clear when a web version of Threads will be released.

Meta has also mentioned that Threads is not being monetised, which will likely change in the coming days. For now, Threads does not feature any ad content.

Threads ensure username consistency by allowing users to log in using their Instagram credentials, meaning other users cannot obtain a username already in use.

Although finding followers from other social media platforms on Threads is impossible, Meta plans to make the app compatible with ActivityPub. This compatibility will allow users to seamlessly transfer their accounts and followers to other platforms supporting ActivityPub.

This number is likely to go higher over the next couple of days

It remains to be seen whether Threads, which has already garnered 10 million sign-ups, will achieve popularity, but it marks a significant opportunity for Meta to enter the microblogging landscape. However, it is crucial to recognise that Meta has had limited success in creating standalone apps. Apps like IGTV and Boomerang have been discontinued. Nevertheless, Threads is poised to be a strong competitor to Twitter, potentially challenging even Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky, which is currently being tested among a small group of users. This is what Twitter needs, as healthy competition often benefits consumers.

Kenn Abuya Senior Reporter

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox