Threads Crashed Even Faster Than I Thought
"X" might be lame, but Zuckerberg hasn't replaced it
The last time I wrote about Threads, the competitor to the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, I predicted that no one would be able to achieve the cultural relevancy of the old Twitter. Most social media, relative to a few years ago, has been losing engagement, and what Twitter used to be is probably never coming back. For a long stretch of the 2010s, celebrities, politicians, journalists, and various cultural figures were fixated on the concept of micro-blogging: news-sharing, meme-sharing, self-promotion, and the antic mix of humorous, wrathful, and deeply earnest exchanges that mattered most to people. Donald Trump, the most famous tweeter there will ever be, was even elected president. Threads, which is Mark Zuckerberg’s bid, through Instagram, to undercut Elon Musk’s company, can only go so far if it has the ambitions of the old Twitter.
But I did think Zuckerberg had a crucial advantage that would make Musk’s life, for the time being, more difficult. Instagram is a genuinely successful social media platform that is far larger than X. Musk’s ill-conceived rebranding won’t change that. More people like to share photos or Snapchat-style “stories” than 140-character missives. Even Instagram matters less than it once did, but it’s an undeniable juggernaut and the reason Zuckerberg, who is most famous for founding Facebook, now the favored social media platform of the middle-aged, can still claim a certain degree of dominance. Owning the globally-popular WhatsApp helps too. Every other Twitter clone has failed because they all lacked scale and none seemed particularly user-friendly. Personally, I find the idea of starting over on another social media platform exhausting, but if I were deeply invested in Instagram—I only made an account for the first time last year—I could see the appeal of Threads. Zuckerberg let Instagram users import their followers to Threads, which really does look enough like Twitter. If Threads could never recapture that 2010s magic, it could at least prove to be a viable competitor to X.
Instead, engagement is crashing. Daily active users have fallen off more than 80% since last month. Data showed Threads had 8 million users at the end of July, down from a high of 44 million days after its July 5 launch. Zuckerberg has said on Threads he remains “very optimistic” about the community he is trying to create there. “We’ve run this playbook many times (FB, IG, Stories, etc) and I’m confident Threads is on a good path too.”
In fact, it is not. Zuckerberg is delusional. The more interesting question to answer, though, is why Threads couldn’t even sustain growth for one month. What happened, exactly?