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Introducing Meta's New Twitter Rival 'Threads': A Guide on How to Use It

It's a reminiscent feeling that takes you back to 2009. You're cozy in bed on a gloomy morning, leisurely scrolling through a feed filled with discussions about favorite monsoon snacks and koala facts. Leaders are sharing memes and engaging in good-natured trolling, while punny jokes circulate about "thread counts" and followers. This experience is not entirely unfamiliar, but it has been relegated to the nostalgia bin for quite some time. However, this time, it feels different. It feels hopeful.

Meta's Threads bears a striking resemblance to Twitter, complete with familiar icons. It's a page torn right out of Meta's playbook: Duplicate a successful concept, and the users will come. And they did come. Threads garnered two million signups in just two hours, reaching five million within four hours. Remarkably, this surge occurred before the West had even woken up to the new app. Signing up is incredibly easy if you already have an Instagram account. A single click grants you access, and with another click, your feed is automatically populated with all the accounts you follow on Instagram.

Certainly, there are some key features missing at the moment. Trending topics are absent, but Instagram's chief, Adam Mosseri, assures users that "Trends" are on their way. Direct messages (DMs) are unavailable, although the app does connect to your Instagram account. There is also no "bookmark" option, which is one of the few new features that Twitter has executed well. However, since it has only been a few hours since the launch, we can afford to give it some time to introduce additional features and enhancements. Mosseri promises, "There's a lot more to come really soon."

Threads embodies many aspects of what Twitter represents, while intentionally emphasizing what Twitter is no longer. Both Mosseri and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg have emphasized that the platform is "open and free." A casual scroll through Zuckerberg's timeline will reveal multiple instances of his statement, "We're focused on making Threads a friendly place!" This is something that most Twitter users would agree Elon Musk's Twitter ceased to be a while ago. Despite the abundance of sponsored content and a feed that no longer prioritizes content from the accounts you actively choose to follow, Instagram has managed to maintain a somewhat friendly environment. Mosseri asserts that the "good tools" from Instagram will be carried over to Threads, including their community guidelines, the ability to restrict views and mentions, and the option to filter out specific words from your feed.

Interestingly, Meta has expressed its intention to integrate Threads into the ActivityPub protocol. This integration would enable Threads to operate on decentralized server networks, similar to Mastodon. The ActivityPub protocol allows for interoperability between social networks, resembling older chat systems that are open, as opposed to modern closed networks. This means that you have control over your community, and if you choose to migrate to another platform, your community can seamlessly transition along with you.

If Threads proves successful, Meta will dominate the landscape of our social media presence, encompassing WhatsApp, Instagram, and Threads (and to a lesser extent, Facebook, for those who are still active on it). This prospect is somewhat unsettling, and the folks at Meta are well aware of it. The integration of ActivityPub, also known as the Fediverse, addresses some of these concerns. As explained by Verge, it dismantles the walls that separate the internet from an app. To illustrate this, consider email versus Facebook: You have a single email address, and it doesn't matter if the person you want to communicate with uses Gmail, Hotmail, or Outlook. Your contacts remain the same, regardless of the app or service they prefer. In contrast, on Facebook or Instagram, communication is only possible if both parties have accounts on the respective platforms.

ActivityPub, with roots dating back to the early days of the World Wide Web, is not a new concept. Nor is the idea of a text-based social network with trends and recommendations. However, for those of us who grew up on the internet in the early 2010s, this fusion of old and new ideas fills a void we've been yearning for.

It will be fascinating to observe how communities form and evolve on Threads. For instance, Twitter is not typically where you go to find out where your friends are traveling. Having your Instagram audience—comprising uncles, school friends, fashion enthusiasts, and others—as instant viewers of your textual thoughts can be a double-edged sword. What keeps Instagram shiny and relatively safe is its closed community, where people seek out what's appealing and secure. On the other hand, Twitter's strength lies in being a forum for discussions, debates, and questioning. However, these strengths have also contributed to its downfall, exposing toxic politics and hidden agendas.

Back in the 2010s, Twitter was a platform for discovery—of witty individuals, new music, unexplored ideas, and even blood donors in times of need. Users were building their own communities, ready to show kindness to strangers or offer cleverly crafted responses. Most importantly, Twitter was fun, with a keen sense of humor. India's stand-up comedy scene thrived on Twitter, but it was also where the platform's flaws were laid bare.

Now, with the emergence of Threads, there's a sense of nostalgia intertwined with curiosity about its potential. The landscape of social media is ever-evolving, and as Threads vies for attention alongside other dominant platforms, only time will tell if it can recapture the essence of what made the early days of Twitter so engaging.

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