Threads has 100 million users, but is it user friendly?
First confession; I love Twitter. For all its faults and the recent controversy since Elon Musk’s acquisition of the micro-blogging social media website and app, I use Twitter religiously. Whether it’s for connecting with people to discuss my favourite sports or discovering more about breaking news stories, I am addicted. I have been very fortunate to build strong friendships through Twitter and I do not think I could turn my back on it unless every user was forced to pay to access it.
Second confession; I have signed up to Threads – Meta’s new Twitter rival. As soon as I had the opportunity to register for this new app through my Instagram account, I did. Now with Threads only being available for less than a week, I can see both similarities and differences to the Twitter experience. I felt this blog would be a good opportunity to share my first impressions of Threads.
The bad news for Threads is that the major differences between the two platforms are what I see as inconveniences to the overall user experience, rather than comparable benefits.
Lost in Time
One of the main complaints from both me and many early users of Threads is that there currently isn’t a way to simply view posts in chronological order. The homepage timeline is quite random and the posts you are shown are roughly based on your interests from Instagram activity. You may see a lot of posts from accounts that are similar to the ones you follow, along with people you follow’s interactions with verified accounts (similar to LinkedIn).
However, posts are not organised in any way, and you often find yourself reading threads which were posted many hours or even days ago. This is very much the way Instagram works, but it’s not necessarily great for creating discussions on an app where people are sharing their immediate thoughts and hoping for relatively quick responses. Additionally, users cannot search for specific phrases in posts and the app does support hashtags. This makes finding threads about your interests very difficult.
Oh followers, where art thou?
Another cause of frustration is the lack of a way to only read posts from the people you follow. Quite simply, there isn’t a ‘Following’ option, like on Twitter. As mentioned above, the home timeline is littered with posts from accounts you may not have an interest in following. The Threads app does not even tell you if are looking at a ‘suggested’ post, like what is done on Instagram. This leads to very tedious scrolling and if I am honest, I will give up after 30 seconds and leave the app alone for a few hours.
Now because the layout to Threads is similar to Twitter, you open the app hoping for a similar user experience. This is yet to be the case though. Threads claims to have more than 100 million ‘users’ but that is simply stretching the truth at this stage. There may be many people who have registered, through their Instagram accounts, but from what I can tell the number of users actively posting regularly is comparatively low. This may change over time, but until then it looks like users will be flooded with posts from accounts they are not following.
Why do you need to know that?
My final concern is data privacy and protection. Signing up for Threads can only be done through an existing Instagram account. What’s more deciding to delete your Threads account, should you not like the experience, will result in you losing your Instagram account. This comes across as a devious way for Meta to retain your personal information, so be careful about how much you wish to share with them if you want to sign up. Another important thing to consider is that Threads is available in the US and the UK, but not in Europe because of GDPR regulations. Until Meta follows these rules, connecting with the wider world through Threads is not yet possible.
If you are a social media manager or content creator, it may be best to wait until some of my concerns are resolved. Privacy and data protection are non-negotiable for many companies and investing time and resources into social media platforms can be costly if it is hard to generate engagement. Having said that, I am looking forward to seeing how Threads may be improved in the coming weeks. With 100 million people already registered, Meta would be foolish not to listen to users’ ideas to make its latest app a better experience.