Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to witness an epic battle between two social media heavyweights, competing to be the leading service for real-time, text-based conversations.

In one corner, we have the reigning champion, Twitter, having owned the space to date, as the go-to platform for breaking news, viral trends and an ongoing stream of diverse content. However, several months of change under Elon Musk may have weakened its position for now.

And in the other corner, making a well-timed challenge for the title, a brand new app called Threads, with Meta as the powerful force behind it and described as ‘Instagram’s text-based conversation app… where communities come together’.

Phone screens showing meta screen threads

Let battle commence

Threads poses a real threat to Twitter because it is linked to Instagram, with the potential to leverage a huge userbase of 500M daily users worldwide, and people able to keep their Instagram usernames and follow the same accounts.

Meta said, “We’re launching our new text-based standalone app, Threads, on Thursday, July 6th. Whether you’re a creator or a casual poster, Threads offers a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations.

“Threads will be available for all Instagram account types from creators to businesses to personal accounts. At this time, there are no ads or monetisation features on Threads. Our priority is to build consumer value first and foremost, which allows us to explore how to build business value in a way that doesn’t compromise the consumer experience.”

Interestingly, Meta is working on Threads soon being compatible with the open, interoperable social networks. This means users will be able to interact with platforms that support ActivityPub, the decentralised social media protocol, such as Mastodon and WordPress – allowing new types of connections that are simply not possible on most social apps today.

The launch of Threads comes just as Twitter faces more recent challenges, with Elon Musk setting temporary restrictions on Twitter users for viewing content on the platform; this is over concerns about data scraping, working to detect and eliminate bots that can harm the user experience. Restrictions are different for accounts who pay for a blue tick, usually held by celebrities, high-profile individuals and companies; they can view 10,000 posts a day compared to 500 – 1,000 by non-verified users.

Twitter continues to explore new ways to monetise the platform, also announcing that the popular TweetDeck platform will be limited to users with paid verified status. The changes continue to frustrate users, who are starting to look elsewhere. Insider Intelligence forecast a 4% drop in monthly users in 2023 and a further 5% in 2024.

Several apps have popped up recently with similarities to Twitter and some fighting spirit, taking a chunk out of Twitter, including Mastodon, Truth Social, Spill and Bluesky, while also claiming to have seen record traffic following Twitter’s restrictions. However, these apps are unable to pose a real challenge for Twitter, as they don’t have the huge head start that Threads has given with Instagram behind it.

Twitter has work to do, but will put up a good fight; new CEO Linda Yaccarino responded ‘Game on’ to the news of the rivalry. Linda is set to make video a big focus, leaning on her extensive experience in TV streaming and her relationships in the media space. It feels like a positive shift as advertisers are now heavily investing in social video.

What’s next

With Instagram having approximately four times as many users as Twitter does, it could be possible for Threads to quickly reach Twitter’s scale. Threads will certainly shake up the microblogging space, but to become champion there will need to be genuine user and creator engagement on a stable platform, with robust safety measures in place for the community. Meta has a history of borrowing popular features from other platforms and successfully implementing them on their own apps, such as Stories – inspired by Snapchat – and Reels given the rise of TikTok.

Twitter’s ad revenues have always been modest, which may indicate a limitation in the market for this type of app, meaning Threads could be hit in a similar way. Twitter has a new game plan though and are digging deep, putting new energy into making video a priority, plus Elon’s grand vision to be an ‘everything app’, is not to be discounted given the examples in China, and with his track record, could ultimately result in big success.

The news of Threads as a challenger app to Twitter, has sparked the potential for a real fight between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, both with martial arts experience, and who appear to have agreed to a cage fight.

That would certainly be entertaining to watch, but the bell has rung on the fight that really matters, and we’ll be ringside to see how it develops.