What does Threads have to do to usurp X? How Mark Zuckerberg could outmuscle rival Elon


It’s been just over a month since Meta released its newest social media app, Threads, and the initial hype surrounding the launch has long since died down. 

An impressive 70 million people downloaded Threads in the two days after its July 5 launch – a figure that reached 150 million within a week.

However, the amount of people actually using the app each day plummeted from 49 million on July 7 to just nine million at the start of August, according to Similarweb. 

The next few months could be key for Mark Zuckerberg‘s company Meta if it seriously wants to compete with Elon Musk’s X (formerly known as Twitter), which has more than 250 million daily active users. 

MailOnline spoke to experts to find out what changes the Threads app needs to stop it from being consigned to the great graveyard in the sky of embarrassing tech failures.

Threads - which is closely linked to Instagram - lets users share text posts up to 500 characters in length, as well as links, photos and five-minute videos

Threads – which is closely linked to Instagram – lets users share text posts up to 500 characters in length, as well as links, photos and five-minute videos

Threads – which is closely linked to the Instagram app – lets users share text posts up to 500 characters in length, as well as links, photos and five-minute videos. 

While Instagram is primarily used for photos and video clips, Threads is for ‘sharing text updates and joining public conversations’, according to Meta. 

1. Making separate feeds the default 

When you open Threads, a news feed shows a mishmash of posts from people you follow and algorithmically-boosted posts from random accounts that you don’t follow. 

This means you have to scroll through tens of posts from accounts you don’t follow before you can see posts from your friends and family. 

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, confirmed that a feed only with posts from people you follow is available by tapping the home icon twice – but the default setting shows all of them clumped together.  

Meta might want to give posts from people you follow more prominence, according to James Bore, tech analyst and consultant at Bores Group, who says a focus on algorithmically-boosted posts can be ‘infuriating’. 

‘I don’t want random posts, or sponsored posts popping up and bugging me,’ Bore told MailOnline. 

It's beginning to look a lot like Twitter! The 'text-based conversation app' Threads has a very familiar text feed, profile design and even blue verification ticks

It’s beginning to look a lot like Twitter! The ‘text-based conversation app’ Threads has a very familiar text feed, profile design and even blue verification ticks

‘Particularly when they’re supposedly “targeted” based on whatever profile they think they’ve built for me.’ 

Bore said Threads needs an ‘intuitive’ way to show the two types of posts, but not by copying what Twitter has done with its ‘For You’ and ‘Following’ tabs

‘Twitter made For You the focus rather than following which was infuriating,’ he said. 

‘It doesn’t maintain your preference – it’ll always default back to For You and there’s no indication when you’ve looked down the page even a little on which you’re on.’ 

Social media consultant Rhea Freeman said combining popular posts with personal posts might be part of Meta’s growth strategy for Threads.

‘It could help show people who are on the app and perhaps encourage additional follows and interaction of Threads that seem likely to get engagement,’ she told MailOnline.

‘I feel like this definitely expands our experience beyond that of our own community and allows us to see and experience new things.’

2. Hashtags 

Another big feature that’s missing from Threads is the ability to search with hashtags.

Threads does have a search function – discernable by a magnifying glass at the bottom of the app – but it’s for finding other users. 

‘Hashtag search is such a great way to connect people looking for specific things or wanting to chat around a theme or event,’ Freeman told MailOnline. 

Searching for a hashtag on Threads won't work - instead it will return top results for account profiles

Searching for a hashtag on Threads won’t work – instead it will return top results for account profiles  

While Instagram is primarily for photos and video clips, Threads is for 'sharing text updates and joining public conversations', according to Meta

While Instagram is primarily for photos and video clips, Threads is for ‘sharing text updates and joining public conversations’, according to Meta

Meta’s social media platforms  

Facebook (2004)

Messenger (2011) 

WhatsApp (acquired in 2014)

Instagram (acquired in 2012)

Threads (2023)

‘At the moment, it is hard to find specific conversations beyond those suggested or those created by people you follow.

‘If you’re looking to grow your network, find new people with shared interests or just expand your reach by engaging with related conversations, that’s really hard to do.’

3. Direct messaging 

Another issue for many users could be the lack of direct messaging (DMs), as found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which lets two users talk to each other privately. 

‘For me, if search and DMs are released, X would have a real challenge on its hands,’ said Freeman. 

4. Desktop version 

Among the other key issues needing a fix is that Threads is only available for smartphones – both Android and iPhones – but not for desktop, unlike Twitter. 

Instagram is of course mobile-focused too, but moving into desktop as well could help draw users who like to check Twitter at their work desk. 

Threads for desktop does indeed seem to be one of the features in the works.  

In response to a Threads post saying ‘Ok desktop web version next PLEASE’, Mosseri replied, ‘We’re working on it’. 

Musk took over Twitter in October and has just changed its name to X as part of plans to turn it into what he's described as an 'everything' app (file photo)

Musk took over Twitter in October and has just changed its name to X as part of plans to turn it into what he’s described as an ‘everything’ app (file photo)

Meta boos Mark Zuckerberg (left) is hoping to pull users away from X (formerly called Twitter) away from its owner Elon Musk (right)

Meta boos Mark Zuckerberg (left) is hoping to pull users away from X (formerly called Twitter) away from its owner Elon Musk (right)

5. Ability to delete the app 

Meta has also caused controversy by making it impossible to delete Threads without deleting Instagram too

Although a Threads profile can be temporarily deactivated, permanently deleting it requires sacrificing Instagram as well because both platforms are intertwined.

When the Threads app is downloaded, people don’t even need to choose a username; instead Threads just pulls this from your Instagram account. 

The fact it’s so easy to set up an account on Threads may partly explain why sign-ups exploded when it was released. 

In several other ways there’s integration between Threads and Instagram, such as the ability to share a Thread to your Instagram Stories. 

Users can also use the Threads icon on Instagram (and the Instagram icon on Threads) to jump between the two apps with a single tap. 

This integration between the two is ‘huge’, according to Freeman, and could be explored further by Meta in the near future. 

‘Instagram is a beast of platform with well over 2 billion monthly active users, so there’s already a big audience to promote Threads to, who can utilise Threads as part of their Instagram experience rather than being something as a standalone.’  

Certainly, Threads is limited in terms of functionality, especially when compared with X, but this may have been a deliberate ploy on Meta’s part. 

Releasing Threads as a bare bones version before drip-feeding new features that improve the user experience will add a wave of publicity each time they arrive. 

So, is Threads salvageable? 

Ultimately, Meta will have to find ways of taking users away from Twitter without simply copying it outright. 

‘Threads is still so young, and new functionality is being rolled out all the time, so I don’t think it’ll be long before we see these and more features to make our Threads usage easier,’ said Freeman. 

Bore, meanwhile, thinks Threads might not be ‘salvageable’ for Meta following the serious dip in daily active users. 

‘Active users plummeting is hardly surprising – it’s happened with every single “Twitter killer” so far,’ he said. 

‘There’s a burst of users, burst of activity, but not enough interaction and momentum to hit critical mass before people head back. 

‘By following Twitter they’re not going to outdo it. 

‘Either they need a killer differentiator, or to keep it on life support for long enough to build momentum, which is expensive and a huge risk.’ 

Threads release comes amid talks of ‘cage fight’ between Mark Zuckerberg and rival Elon Musk 

Threads has been nicknamed the ‘Twitter killer’ online amid animosity between Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Elon Musk. 

The rival billionaires may be about to engage in a ‘cage fight’ to settle the long-running feud that has mostly played out online. 

It all started near the end of June when Musk was commenting about Meta’s plans to release Threads. 

Musk said of Threads: ‘I’m sure Earth can’t wait to be exclusively under Zuck’s thumb with no other options.’ 

Musk was then told that the Meta CEO practices jiu jitsu, to which he replied: ‘I’m up for a cage match if he is lol.’ 

The Twitter boss later tweeted: ‘If this is for real, I will do it.’ 

Zuckerberg replied by posting a screenshot of Musk’s tweet to his Instagram story with the caption: ‘Send me location.’ 

Mark Zuckerberg seemed to agree to the cage fight, simply posting the words 'send me location' on his Instagram story

Mark Zuckerberg seemed to agree to the cage fight, simply posting the words ‘send me location’ on his Instagram story

The Colosseum in Rome has been offered as a potential venue for the fight by the Italian Minister of Culture, according to reports. 

Zuckerberg’s company seemed to take a dig at Twitter by saying Threads will be ‘sanely-run’. 

Musk has urged Twitter users to delete their Facebook accounts, calling the social network ‘lame’ in the past



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