Mark Zuckerberg only had one job: Make Threads a viable alternative to Twitter from the beginning. It didn’t need to be vastly superior. Or even a tiny bit better. It just needed to offer the minimum to give people incentive to finally leave the toxic wasteland of blue-checked trolls ASAP. For once, we were all rooting for Zuckerberg. Instead, we got a lamer Instagram without the photos. (We reached out to Instagram for comment, but haven’t heard back.)
The issue: Threads’ user experience lacks key features that are critical to most Twitter users. Without them, its big bang will likely fade out in a quick, sad poof. Here, in no particular order, are the biggest features Threads is missing.
A way to find news
Threads is lacking the infrastructure for doing what Twitter actually excels at: helping people discover news, live sports, and events—and talk about those things in real time. A 2015 study by the American Press Institute found that 40% of Twitter users want “to be alerted or find out more about breaking news,” and almost 40% said they “wanted to keep up with news in general.” Nearly 30% of users said they wanted to see what other people were talking about when watching events. These numbers apparently kept growing, and by 2019, the percentage of people looking for news on Twitter reached 48%.
Unfortunately, following what’s new and trending is impossible if you don’t have hashtags, which Threads doesn’t yet support. Without hashtags, how can you follow the tidal wave of the internet? It means you can’t just glance at a top board and see what everyone else is seeing; you’re no longer a click away from partaking in a relevant conversation with friends and strangers. It’s also impossible to look into your interests and find others who share your passion for obscure subjects that may not be trending. Hashtags should have been a must have feature from day one for any Twitter rival wannabe. Without it, it’s impossible to reach the tweetheads.
You might assume, given the lack of a top trending board, that Threads would have a powerful search service to actively look up the stuff you already know is happening. Alas, there’s no search either.
A way to follow the people you actually follow
On Threads, there’s no separate feed that only shows the people you follow—the individuals and companies that you are truly interested in. Instead, the app force-feeds you a puree of people you follow plus randoms chosen by some Meta algorithm. This is contrary to another important Twitter usage case: keeping up with friends and family. According to the same survey, 24% of Twitter users rely on the service to communicate and keep up with friends and family. This could have been where Instagram shines; instead users are drowning in yet another algorithmically controlled river of content.
A messaging feature
You’ll have to reply in a thread for now, sorry.
A chronological feed
Threads is pure chaos, and it’s impossible to instill order because the app is missing yet another key feature to make it relevant for those looking to stay up-to-date on news: chronological order. How can I see what’s the latest in the world when the only thing I can read through is a Cobb salad of random thoughts lost in the fabric of spacetime?
An easy way to jump ship
Just by signing onto Threads, you will be giving Meta access to an incredible amount of private information, which apparently is the reason the app is not being released in the EU, where it goes against the laws that protect users against privacy abuses. Or the fact that, if you delete your Threads account, you will be nuking your Instagram account, too (you can, however, deactivate it without touching your Instagram).
And the other many buts . . .
It’s puzzling that Threads didn’t launch with the above features, simply because Instagram already uses many of them. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, implied in a Threads’ thread that the app was created from the ground up, which means its baseline interactions are deliberately distinct from Instagram.
The good news is that Mosseri also says his team is aware of the app’s faults and are working on them: “The real test is not if we can build up a lot of hype, but if you all find enough value in the app to keep using it over time. And there are tons of basics that are missing: search, hashtags, a following feed, graph syncing, fediverse support, messaging maybe. . . . We’re on it.”
The bad news comes at the end: “Full disclosure, it’ll take time.” That doesn’t sound like a great game plan for taking over an entrenched, if flailing, competitor. The question now is if they will be able to push all those features before people lose interest. Given the seemingly inextinguishable dumpster fire that Twitter has become in the past year, maybe the timing is not that important. For now, though, the big Twitter migration of 2023 will probably have to wait.
About the author
Jesus Diaz is a screenwriter and producer whose latest work includes the mini-documentary series Control Z: The Future to Undo, the futurist daily Novaceno, and the book The Secrets of Lego House.