Apps grow up so fast these days.
Meta launched Threads (AKA Instagram but for words) just three months ago, yet the platform’s already facing existential questions like, “What’s its purpose?”
- Threads has a 100m+ user base to build on.
- Competitors Mastodon and Bluesky carry buzz, but still lack, y’know, people. (Mastodon has ~1.8m monthly users; Bluesky has ~1m.)
- Threads’ newest features — trending topics and expanded search — better mimic Twitter.
Except there’s one thing in the way…
… Meta doesn’t seem to want Threads to become the breaking news platform.
- Instagram boss Adam Mosseri told The Verge hard news isn’t “worth the scrutiny, negativity… or integrity risks” for Threads.
- Mosseri sees it as a “less angry” platform, echoed by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s desire for “a more positive, friendly” vibe.
- A sanitized platform is what they wanted and it’s what they’ve got; Threads has blocked search terms like “covid,” “long covid,” and “vaccination,” per The Washington Post.
Why so afraid?
There’s internal conflict about news’ place on Meta platforms, per The Information, and, well, that’s actually fair:
- Anti-news: Meta has been burned here before, plus news isn’t brand-friendly and doesn’t maximize profits. Quite the opposite, in fact: handling it responsibly can be costly, requiring mechanisms to vet sources and compensate journalists, for starters.
- Pro-news: It’s a risky business prospect, sure — but in social media, being relevant can’t happen without being current. Serving a live-news function, per Platformer, offers Threads one “singular benefit: giving the app an enduring, defensible, existential purpose.”
Celeb-sponsored content boosts Meta’s stock price, but it doesn’t offer users any reason to keep coming back. Leaning into news could.
Bottom line for Meta: It’s decision time — build a vibrant (but sometimes “angry”) platform with upside, or play it safe and risk winding up with another defunct product.
The latter’s already on track: Threads had 49.3m daily active users on Android in July; that’s now down to 8.6m. (And we can tell you right now: the 40.7m people who’ve left aren’t hanging with Zuck in his metaverse either.)
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