User counts don’t matter much when comparing Threads to Twitter. Quality is what matters and I’m not seeing much of it on Threads at the moment.
Instagram has over 2 billion active users a month so it’s no wonder why Threads has as many users as it does already. Twitter is considerably smaller at only 237 million. It’s surprising Threads’ number isn’t larger given how little friction there is for existing Instagram users to set up an account.
The iPhone is a good comparative here: Apple has only 20% of the smartphone market yet makes sizable profits and drives much of the industry’s innovation. You don’t need to the biggest to be the best.
So why is Meta doing this? It’s the quality and level of influence that Twitter’s much smaller user base has, with a bulk of those users driving what the media talks about. Will these Twitter users jump ship? Likely not unless Meta builds something that’s better than Twitter to attract those users.
It appears as though Meta is putting its algorithmic fingers on the scale already in an effort to lock these influencers in, picking and choosing the winners here by promoting content from “verified” celebrity and media accounts over the rest of us. Every time I open the app that’s all I see on my front page, mostly from accounts I’m not following. This is no doubt a means of trying to demonstrate to celebrity users that they’ll have similar reach on Threads that they currently enjoy on Twitter. But it’s artifical.
These same celebrity users were complaining when Twitter’s new CEO Elon Musk put a stop to a similar strategy that stifled independent voices. The existing “blue checks” all threatened to leave but few did and Twitter’s traffic and engagement actually increased.
Meta’s verification process is as arbitrary as Twitter 1.0’s process where most smaller independent creators are left out of algorithmic recommendations. It’s also not clear if paying for Meta’s verification program gets you better placement in the algorithm. Either way it appears as though Meta’s strategy here is to build back the echo chamber lost when Twitter changed hands.
Will it be enough to kill Twitter? Probably not but they’ll likely build a decent ecosystem of Instagram users who want to share external links – something Instagram currently restricts.