Back to the Echo Chamber: All That’s Wrong with Threads Right Now

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.

My Local Media Appearances Talking About Threads

Meta/Facebook/Instagram’s new social media app Threads dropped the other day and has already attracted tens of millions of users. This is partly because the sign up process for existing Instagram users requires just a single click to get going.

Yesterday I appeared on WTIC-AM radio and WTIC/Fox 61 here in Connecticut to talk about the app and whether or not Twitter has anything to worry about.

Here’s the Fox 61 appearance:

And my radio interview with Brian Shactman on WTIC is here:

NATO Official Says Telegram is Insecure

According to the Washington Examiner, a NATO official has stated the obvious when it comes to Telegram’s security:

“Telegram is not really as it used to be,” Janis Sarts, the director of NATO’s Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, Latvia, told the Washington Examiner. “I do have reasons to believe that there is not full integrity. … Certainly, I would not see it as a secure platform.”

I covered this topic a few months ago when I did a deep dive into the popular messaging and social media platform. I suspect that it’s insecure by design – governments won’t need to ask for user data when they can very easily pluck it off the wire.

Don’t feed the trolls

The problem with social media as I see it is as follows: attention seeking narcissists troll other narcissists who then air grievances seeking attention from their followers who in turn amplify the original attack in the hopes of being noticed by the aggrieved for doing so.

It’s a self perpetuating cycle that unfortunately the social engines are tuned to promote and profit from.

Twitter Deal “On Hold” Pending Due Diligence on User Numbers

I speculated about this in my May 2nd Weekly Wrapup video and now it appears as though it’s coming to pass:

Elon Musk today announced that the Twitter deal was “on hold” until he could verify the company’s claims that fake users account for only 5% of their overall user figures.

Any acquisition has a period of due diligence to ensure that the company being acquired is worth what the owners say it is – and in the case of Twitter the number of users is the foundation of Twitter’s value proposition.

As a mostly free service Twitter relies on advertising and advertisers want large audience numbers with some assurances that the audiences Twitter serves are actually real people.

Twitter has long struggled with calculating the exact number of unique users on their service. In fact they disclosed that they had been overstating user numbers from March 2019 through the end of 2021 according to their most recent quarterly results:

In March of 2019, we launched a feature that allowed people to link multiple separate accounts together in order to conveniently switch between accounts. An error was made at that time, such that actions taken via the primary account resulted in all linked accounts being counted as mDAU. This resulted in an overstatement of mDAU from Q1’19 through Q4’21.

This overstatement alone accounted for 1.9 million duplicated users. If Twitter is overstating users that they know are humans behind the keyboards how can anyone be confident in Twitter’s claims that fake users are only 5% of their user base? Given the company is incentivized to demonstrate user growth they likely did not invest the resources to detect fake accounts and remove them.

Musk is in the driver’s seat now. If he walks away from the deal the stock tanks as it will erode confidence in the validity of Twitter’s user numbers. Twitter’s Board of Directors will likely feel some pressure to reduce the $44 billion price tag to get the deal done.