After yet another of Elon Musk’s impulsive and foolish decisions – this time to limit how many tweets can be read – Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg seized that disgruntled moment to launch a text competitor.
Called Threads, it was meant to capitalise on this user outrage and amassed 100 million signups in the first week. But it still flopped.
The underdone text messaging app was launched too soon and mostly to take advantage of the (neverending) troubles at Twitter. It set records for the most downloaded app, but just as many records for being deleted.
Researchers Similarweb, which tracks website use, said daily active users peaked at 49 million on 7 July and fell to 12 million by 22 July. Threads was launched on 5 July.
“Most of those who still use Twitter regularly will continue doing so at about the same rate,” said David Carr, a senior insights manager at Similarweb.
Twitter has about 100 million daily users, meaning threadbare Threads only has an equivalent of 12% of what is now known as X.
Signing into Threads was as easy as using your Instagram login details, or, if the photo-sharing app was on your phone, just a click of the button. This seems to explain the 100 million sign-up bonanza more than dissatisfaction with Twitter.
Like Facebook renaming itself Meta, most of us just call the app what it is – Facebook. The same is likely to persist with calling Twitter, well, Twitter.
Musk really has thrown the Twitter baby out with the bathwater, as we continue calling the poor thing writhing around on the bathroom floor by its birth name.
Zuckerberg, meanwhile, thinks he’s got a winner in Threads.
“If hundreds of millions of people sign up and at least half of them stay, that would be great. It’s clearly not there yet,” he said.
And it really isn’t there. I suspect it’s unlikely to ever reach something as magnetically sticky as Twitter/X.
Despite all the shenanigans, read limits, paid-for blue tick accounts, name change and all the poorly executed decisions that have characterised Musk’s frenetic ownership, people still flock back to it.
Why? Because it is the best of a bad bunch.
Twitter has its many, many flaws – but it’s where we’re all still hanging out. This is despite Musk’s self-harming and seemingly suicidal business decisions. As much as we may not want to agree with the billionaire brat, Twitter really is the digital town square.
Zuckerberg noticeably did not launch Threads in the European Union, where Meta’s many transgressions of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation have incurred record fines for how it handles users’ data. Meta clearly hasn’t figured that out yet.
Similarweb’s Carr said Thread users spent nearly 21 minutes a day on the app immediately after launch, but “they’ve spent less than five minutes per day with it. In contrast, Twitter users consistently engaged with the app for about 25 minutes per day” for the last week of July.
Meanwhile, the news doesn’t get any better for the big social networks.
“As we have been reporting month after month, the ad and business portals for both Twitter and Meta/Facebook have seen eroding traffic, while competitors like Snapchat, TikTok and sometimes Pinterest have been gaining,” Carr said.
Month-to-date traffic to the Twitter ad portal was down 10.4%, he adds, “reflecting a long-term slide in advertiser engagement”.
Meta’s ads portal was down 11.6%, again reflecting a long-term trend, while Snapchat was up 185.8%, TikTok traffic was up 66.4%, and Pinterest was up 32.3%.
Meta may have had a recent surge, but these long-term trajectories show anyone who is watching that the new dominant social network is TikTok. With more than 1.4 billion users (I asked Bing), it has been downloaded three billion times and its largest user base is the US, where it has about 113 million users. Take that, Threads. DM