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I’ve been talking about people leaving Twitter for a while in this column. But this week, it actually began to happen. People are still using Twitter, of course, and there’s plenty of discourse going on on that app. But the alternative apps really began to take off after last weekend, when Elon Musk announced temporary rate limits. There’s Bluesky, Spill, and now Threads.
The latter app has seen overnight popularity, thanks to it being connected to a user’s Instagram account. When setting up an account, you can keep the same username and profile photo, and you can follow the same people you do on Instagram. The ease of use has led to more than 30 million user signups.
If there’s one app that may become an actual threat to Twitter, it’s Threads. Meta, Instagram’s parent company, has had success in the past with mimicking the features of other apps for their own platform. It created Stories after Snapchat’s success with disappearing posts. It created Reels after TikTok took off. Threads is designed to replace Twitter. Meta is not trying to be subtle; the name is obviously a play on people saying the word “thread” on Twitter when writing a series of connected tweets.
But will it actually replace the experience of being on Twitter? A text-based social media app doesn’t work for everyone, and if you’re currently on Threads you can already see the awkwardness of Instagram users trying to figure out how to, well, tweet. I’m on Bluesky as well—which actually feels more like a Twitter replacement because the people joining it are Twitter users. They know how to create posts that are mainly text-based.
Right now, we’re seeing a live experiment. Will a sizable Twitter audience leave? If they do, what other apps will they use? The problem right now is that there are too many options. An average user won’t try multiple Twitter alternatives. They’ll just pick one.
Why it matters
Twitter has obviously been a big part of internet culture. It’s where memes were created. It’s where online communities formed. It’s where we’ve learned about news before it was reported by an outlet. But with all the changes, from verification to rate limits, people are tired. They just want something that works. And Threads might be the app to lure people away.
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