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A brief thread:
Threads is just enough like Twitter to be familiar, but without any of the weirdness that endeared it to its earlier users.
Threads is like when a kid is gifted a sports car on their 17th birthday instead of saving up for a used sedan. The kid with the sports car will have a blast dating and driving to college. The kid with the sedan is gonna take better care of that car than the family dog, and they won’t forget a single mile of their journey.
Twitter, for years, was that sedan, and we pushed it well past its limits.
Or, in ad industry terms, it’s like the difference between an agency that’s handed a piece of business from the holding company and the shop that has to fight just to get in the room, let alone win the pitch.
You get it.
For the first decade of Twitter’s existence, despite some steps forward and some steps back, it always felt like it was ‘owned’ by the community. That might not have been true in any real sense, but for its users, it felt like it was ours. That it didn’t make sense to everyone in the way Facebook did only helped to make Twitter more endearing. If you were on there pre-2010, how many times did you have to explain hashtags to people?
Hell, I had to testify as an expert witness explaining #tbt in a case before the New York State Supreme Court. You try doing it under oath and see how that goes.
Around 2016, the vibe at Twitter started to shift as the leader of one political party was trying to make Twitter all about him, and it worked. Much worse, in 2022, the new owner of Twitter was so insistent on making Twitter all about him that he was rigging the algorithms to juice his stats further. This isn’t about politics; it’s about narcissism. I’m a pretty big fan of Chef Jose Andres, but if Twitter was doing everything it could to shove the chef’s tweets down my throat, I’d look for a new cult.
And along came Threads.
Threads is the least weird social platform debut I’ve ever seen, and that’s what makes it so weird. In the day or two after it launched, it wasn’t taken over by propagandists. It wasn’t instantly filled with spam. The servers stayed up. It didn’t do very much. And overall, people seemed happy to be there.
It’s gentrified in a way that has nothing to do with race and everything to do with being bland. It’s so brand that brands were tripping over themselves to join on day one and interact with each other there.
Do you get how weird that is? Do you know how long it took to explain to CPG brands that Snapchat was mostly a way for teens to innocuously communicate with each other and that there was a very low chance that Oscar Meyer’s content would run anywhere near shots of Anthony Weiner’s… well, you get that too.
Brands got it though. The fear is spending a few cycles on a platform that doesn’t work. That’s so much of a relief compared to platforms that could blow up in their face.
Threads isn’t supposed to work.
No one’s supposed to care about this. It should be a laughingstock. A clone. An also-ran.
Facebook, Meta, whatever the heck it is in this post-metaverse world, is supposed to be that thing our parents used before Covid.
Yet it still matters. Instagram remains vibrant. WhatsApp groups are everywhere — please, I’ll do anything NOT to join your WhatsApp group. And Facebook now has third-hottest product launch of the decade after ChatGPT and Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
It’s not all so utopian. There are all kinds of concerns about Facebook’s data collection policies, and warnings that you can’t delete your Threads account without deleting Instagram. The EU is left in limbo. Plus, when will we get our hashtags?
And yet, 450 million people covered by the EU aside, you’ll probably see quite a few of your friends hanging out, having fun, and interacting with some of their favorite brands and celebs.
I like Bluesky, even if I keep forgetting to spell it as one word. I’m there as dberkowitz. Sure, let’s connect. I joined over a month ago and have amassed 40 followers, while following 63 others. That’s while actively trying to find more of my personal network and Twitter followees there. There are some great people there, I think, but they’re way too hard to discover.
Bluesky is at its best when there’s some dumpster fire over at Twitter (so, nearly always). It’s like dating someone where the two of you constantly bond over how much you hate your ex — you’ll enjoy it for a while and then feel depleted. Don’t bet on that relationship to last.
There could be something more over at Bluesky, and I’d love for it to work. That it feels so much like Twitter gives it a short learning curve. And a lot of the folks who are there first are eager to keep it weird.
Then I joined Threads. Within 24 hours, it was great that I had 500 followers, but more importantly, I had 400 people to follow. I’ve been paring back who I follow on Instagram over the years, and it paid off this week. I know most of the names popping up in my feed, and I’m glad to see them. I’ll be glad to see you there too (well, probably).
Few people will get worked up about the data-sharing issues with Threads. Tons of ads on Instagram didn’t kill the user experience. What tends to kill projects by Metabook is when there’s no one there (remember Horizon Worlds?). On Threads, it seems like everyone’s there using this good enough, intuitive enough product that even a brand can love.
It felt great to be Twitter-verified and amass tens of thousands of followers there. My account was featured in Ad Age, Adweek, and PR Week. The luminaries I helped get on Twitter included the Chief Fashion Officer of Saks and the executive director of a major non-profit who I won’t mention because he then spent a few years in prison. It was quite a run.
With the successful debut of Threads, even if Twitter technically has more activity, it feels like part of my past. If I’m not alone, less intense sentiments than that doomed past stalwarts like MySpace. Threads already has that x-factor called momentum. I don’t need Twitter in the same way if something else can serve enough of the same purpose.
Even that beloved sedan one day becomes undrivable. The only question now is whether Threads is the keeper for the next decade, or it’s the loaner that’ll help us get by for a bit until we find the ride of our dreams.