Instagram's Twitter rival, Threads, is destined to become a boring playground for brands
- Instagram's Twitter rival, Threads, has surged to over 100 million users, riding a hype wave.
- But the new "conversation" platform has a fatal flaw: It's going to be boring.
Instagram's Twitter rival, Threads, has surged to over 100 million users in less than a week, an eye-popping figure that shows the sheer size of the hype wave it's riding. But the app has a fatal flaw that will ultimately doom it to mediocrity: It's going to be boring.
You can tell how boring Threads is going to be by the way Instagram parent Meta describes its vision: "To take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas."
Here's a question for Meta: What is it, actually, that Instagram does best? The platform has felt like a declining power since the rise of TikTok (which it copied with Reels) and hasn't been inspiring to either everyday users or influencers for a long time. When I think about what Instagram still is best at, it's giving creators and celebs an outlet to make money from sponsored content. That's not a great starting point for Threads.
It's clear that Meta wants Threads to be like Twitter (the two platforms look nearly identical), only more "positive" and advertiser-friendly — a good place for everyone to make money.
Instagram boss Adam Mosseri further outlined the company's vision when he said last week that while politics and "hard news" would "inevitably" show up on Threads, the company wouldn't do "anything to encourage those verticals."
I get why Meta is scared of politics, given the polarization in the US and how badly the subject warped Facebook. But Mosseri's comment about "hard news" shows the company's strategy is about avoiding more than just partisan outrage.
Hard news can be nebulous to define, but generally refers to a certain seriousness of tone and a slant toward uncovering information that has widespread impact. It also tends to skew "negative" and is often not advertiser-friendly. That's part of the reason advertisers put hard news subjects like the climate crisis and Russia's war in Ukraine on blocklists.
I understand the impulse to create an environment less full of harassment and hate than Twitter can be. But the idea of doing that by avoiding conversation topics perceived as negative seems a recipe for creating a very boring dinner party. How many of the most interesting conversations you've ever had were advertiser-friendly?
It reminds me of a quote from Agent Smith in the movie "The Matrix."
"Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world?" he says, referring to the virtual world that the film's machines use to keep human minds engaged while they harvest energy from their bodies. "Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster." The humans didn't believe it because it didn't feel real.
I think Threads, a "conversation" platform designed with positivity in mind, will feel like a similarly sanitized world and will fail to engage users in the long run. Things don't get weird on Instagram, a brand-friendly paradise where users perfectly curate how they want their lives to appear to others. So, what's to suggest things will get weird on Threads?
And that means despite the early outburst of enthusiasm, Threads — like Instagram — might end up being better for brands than for humans.
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