Meta, formerly Facebook, is no stranger to ripping off features from other social networks and hopping on popular trends. But this time, with Threads, the company finally picked a good time and a good angle to play copycat.
Over the course of the last several years, Meta hasn’t really come out with any ideas that are new. Stories were taken from Snapchat, Reels are a rehash of TikTok, and Instagram even quickly came out with a BeReal competitor in response to that app’s flash-in-the-pan popularity.
A plethora of other features and standalone apps have come and gone in response to possible competition and Meta has been heavily criticized by media outlets and social media users for just jumping to the next big thing, hitting copy, and then just pasting it hastily into Instagram in an attempt to maintain users and continue to grow.
— Nader ikkeri (@NaderIkkeri) July 6, 2023
Hell, even Threads — the original Threads — was a standalone app that originally ripped off features from Snapchat. That app failed, but has now been revived as another knockoff: Twitter.
The difference this time, however, is that Meta isn’t jumping to a fad, but is responding to a genuine perceived need in the social media space. Whether you care about Twitter or not, it is impossible to argue that the platform fills a gap in the social media landscape that, since Elon Musk took over, has appeared shaky. Mastodon, BlueSky, and Hive either popped up as new options or used the teetering status of the blue bird app to relaunch marketing efforts with varying degrees of success.
Now, with Threads, Meta has joined the fray and is the best positioned to unseat Twitter in the text-based social media space, for better or for worse.
The difference, this time, is that Twitter isn’t an upstart social media company with a brand-new take on the space. Instead, it’s a brand that has been shrouded in controversy and is owned by a personality that is, to put it lightly, polarizing. For the first time in recent memory, Meta — and Instagram — have released a product in response to a genuine perceived need rather than a feature designed to protect its bottom line.
Whether you agree with Meta or Twitter or either company’s leadership, at least this time Meta has chosen a good time to play copycat and fill a gap. It didn’t even try to cram those features into its existing and now bloated photo app, and took a genuine risk by making it its own thing.
And Meta is finding success. Less than 24 hours after Threads launched, it already has more than 30 million users.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Threads is, pardon the pun, a rather threadbare app. There is no web app, no trending topics, search is pretty terrible, there is no customizable home feed, profiles are intrinsically linked with Instagram so that one cannot be deleted without the other, and a host of other bugs that all new social networks struggle with. All this, and the app is also very slow. Meta could build all these features and fix the bugs, but the company is known for just throwing something aside if it doesn’t find quick success. I mean, just look at the company’s name: the metaverse has already been abandoned.
Meta also doesn’t have a great history when it comes to privacy and data scraping, as many who are critical of Threads have been quick to point out.
I don’t know what actions Meta has taken in their entire history that would lead anyone to think they’re serious about solving the Twitter dilemma with Threads.
What is perhaps the biggest violator of privacy on the planet wants us to feed its shiny new monster. Sorry, no.
— Mike McAlister 🧑🚀 (@mikemcalister) July 6, 2023
Under Musk, Twitter has positioned itself as a bastion of free speech and still welcomes NSFW content, the latter being a step Meta products have not been willing to take. Whether you believe the free speech claims from Musk or not, there are still many reasons that Twitter fans might want to stick with the blue bird and avoid anything from Meta.
Still, it’s hard for many to not stand a bit in Meta’s corner this time, especially given the shift in how the company chose to develop a product: popularity versus need.
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Image credits: Meta