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Pulling the Threads: Inside social media's latest trend

Meta’s Twitter competitor has launched to great success with over 50 million users so far. But what are its aims and what's its story?
Pulling the Threads: Inside social media's latest trend
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Social media is a fickle thing. In the twenty-six or so years since the launch of the first social media platform - Six Degrees, all the way back in 1997 - giants such as MySpace and Bebo have risen to the top only to fall off the radar as 'the hot new thing' hogs the limelight.

Threads is just days into this lifecycle but has already captured the public's attention. Its victory (for now) being buoyed by a number of contributing factors creating a perfect storm around the new platform that's given it a stellar launch with - at the time of writing - an unofficial count of around 50 million users.

For a start it's a Meta product, and as such has Instagram as a sister site. Instagram users can link their accounts, getting them off to a rolling start finding familiar friends and making contact. Plus it is - on the surface - a shameless lift of Twitter's best features making transitioning from one to the other seamless. However, there are several key differences between the two. There's a higher character limit of 500 on posts, and a five-minute maximum length on video posts. 

Trouble for Twitter

And, of all the social media outlets in the world today, it's perhaps Twitter that's most likely to feel the pain of Threads arrival. Since the site was purchased by Elon Musk in October 2022, the billionaire has made a number of controversial decisions that haven't won his platform any fans. After unceremoniously dumping key staff and running its service just a knife edge from going dark (it's alleged) his flirtations with 'free speech' - including inaccurate claims, such as declaring “cis” a slur - have drawn him the ire of his audience.

And as for the bodged sale of blue ticks and their removal from users with millions of followers creating a firestorm of fakes? Words fail us.

Elon Musk’s inexperience with social media has come at the expense of confidence in Twitter, with many investors, users, and businesses concerned regarding some of Musk’s decisions, as well as the man himself seemingly allowing his political views to colour his business strategies.

Too often in recent times Twitter has felt like Musk's own personal mouthpiece rather than something for everyone to enjoy. And that includes the thousands of corporations and media that have made Twitter an essential part of their day's to dos.

The recent imposition of limits of views, combatting a closeted AI war that users don't understand or believe in, is the crowning turd on Twitter's reputation as being too weird, too often.

It's all adds up to an atmosphere of exodus that makes Threads arrival feel expertly timed. 

Social anxiety

And now, in a move that anyone could have predicted, Threads has drawn the ire of Elon Musk directly, who has announced his intent to sue the site, due to the similarities between the two platforms. Perhaps he only has himself to blame. After all, Musk fired a large number of Twitter employees - allegedly for insulting him in the company’s Slack channel - many of which were then hoovered up by Meta for Threads. As such, Musk is alleging that the similarities between the sites aren't just cosmetic but cross the line into the theft of trade secrets.

Certainly Meta's Mark Zuckerberg making one of his rare sojourns to Musk's platform to tweet the Spiderman imposter meme - essentially admitting to cloning his site - won't have cheered him up.

Where does Threads fit into the games space? Well, there’s one notable (albeit hypothetical) advantage over Twitter at the moment - the possibility that, like Facebook Messenger, the platform can incorporate games directly into its interface in the future.

Minigames will come first and after that? The sky's the limit. And how is the mobile games industry treating the arrival of Threads? With open arms, it would appear.

Already, several major names in the game and tech spaces have adopted the platform, including some of the world’s biggest game makers such as Activision Blizzard and Square Enix, as well as major media entities such as Netflix and Disney. As such, it’s clear that the fledgling network has made an impression. Whether it can maintain this momentum remains to be seen, but right now, with Twitter having fumbled the ball, mindshare possession is firmly with Threads.

We listed several of the companies in this article as some of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022. Nominate your selection for our 2023 awards here.