Meta, the company behind Instagram, has unveiled its new text-based social networking app called Threads.
The app allows Instagram users to log in with their existing credentials and share short updates, including text up to 500 characters, links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes long.
Threads is now available for iOS and Android users in 100 countries, excluding the EU due to concerns regarding local data privacy regulations.
Users can sign in using their Instagram login, and their username and verification status will carry over to Threads. However, Profiles on Threads can also be customized independently.
Earlier this year, news about the app’s development was leaked and later confirmed by Meta. The company previewed the app to its employees in June, revealing its target audience of high-profile celebrities, influencers, and artists, along with its planned features.
While Twitter competitor Bluesky, backed by Jack Dorsey, has been gaining popularity with its decentralized protocol called AT Protocol, Threads will soon support ActivityPub.
ActivityPub is the same social networking protocol used by the open-source Twitter alternative Mastodon and other federated apps.
This move will allow Threads to expand its reach, as Mastodon’s ecosystem currently engages 1.7 million active users. However, the exact timeline for implementing this feature in Threads remains unknown.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, stated, “We’re committed to building support for ActivityPub into this app. We weren’t able to finish it for the launch, but it’s coming. Being open can enable you to take your audience with you to another server if you ever leave Threads or get de-platformed.”
By embracing ActivityPub, Threads will compete with other Mastodon clients, including indie apps like Ivory and the Mozilla-funded Mammoth.
Flipboard, Medium, and Automattic, the owner of WordPress.com, have also invested in the Mastodon ecosystem amidst the issues from Twitter.
Meta’s entry into the open decentralized social web has raised concerns that the company may employ an “embrace, extend, and extinguish” strategy, similar to how Google dominated web-based email.
While the success of Threads remains to be seen, it is an opportune time for Meta to venture into microblogging. However, the company has a mixed track record when it comes to building successful standalone apps.
Over the years, Meta has shut down several apps, including Hello, Moves, Paper, Poke, Camera, Home, Slingshot, Rooms, Riff, Bolt, Lifestage, Groups, Stickered, Moments, Notify, Bonfire, Lasso, Novi, and others.
To access Threads, users must authenticate using their current Instagram login credentials. The app will then populate with their existing account details, such as name, username, photo, and followers. Verification status will also transfer to the new app.
Integration with Instagram gives Threads an advantage in terms of sign-ups, as users can follow the accounts they already follow on Instagram with just one tap.
Additionally, the app carries over users’ block lists and operates under the same Community Guidelines as Instagram, making it easier to understand what content is permitted.
Users can also customize their audience settings for each post, deciding who can reply. Instagram has been experimenting with various ways for users to connect beyond sharing photos and videos.
In February 2023, the company launched “broadcast channels,” enabling creators to connect more directly with followers through text, images, polls, reactions, GIFs, and more.