So Meta launched their “Twitter killer” app Threads last weekend, and in a few days has amassed over 100 million users.
This is an incredible growth rate for a new social platform. It speaks volumes about how toxic and divisive Twitter has become that people are so eagerly and actively looking for the next thing.
Mastodon and the Fediverse have also been enjoying influxes of users coming in various waves over the past year since Musk bought Twitter. But nothing like what happened on Threads this week.
Threads is interesting. Ostensibly built on ActivityPub, it could theoretically be a member of the Fediverse sometime in the future. This remains to be seen as they have not begun to federate, but apparently intend to.
It should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of Mastodon and the Fediverse, the latter of which I think is the best way forward for social media on the internet.
Corporately owned walled gardens are unhealthy and bristle against the principles of the internet, and I am hopeful at signs the network is beginning to reject them.
The launch has been pretty impressive growth-wise. In a world where new social apps typically get launched behind an invite-code so the engineers can manage scale and growth, Meta had no such concerns with Threads- they’ve got the infrastructure and experience to operate at massive scale ready on day one, and it showed.
Meta also brilliantly bootstrapped the service using the Instagram social graph, making it exceedingly easy for any of Insta’s 2 billion users (well the ones in the countries where Threads has launched) to sign up and immediately be connected to all the same people and brands they are already familiar with.
And Meta clearly did a lot of preparation for the launch, lining up all the brands and celebrities, along with a verification system to prevent squatters and impersonators, cheekily similar looking to Elon’s blue check of shame.
While I am impressed with the day one experience of Threads, and I can see the appeal for a large number of users, there is still the fact that it is owned by big bad Meta.
Nobody should want a single company to own the entire social graph. This is clearly too much power for a single corporation to hold, and Meta has shown itself willing to abuse that kind of power.
So I find myself conflicted over Threads. I am intrigued by their choice to build on ActivityPub, and am cautiously optimistic that Meta could surprise us all and become good Fediverse citizens.
But I am keenly aware of the “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish” business principle and fear for what could happen to the Fediverse, given Meta’s sheer size and proclivities. The gravitational pull of such a big instance being added to the Fediverse could drastically change the landscape.