Social media

Social media: Threads vs Twitter

(Not a transport post)

I’ve used a few social media and instant messenger services over the years. I’m not sure if Usenet, IRC and ICQ count, but SixDegrees certainly does.

Then came Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In recent years I’ve mostly used the latter.

The old Twitter wasn’t owned by angels, but at least they seemed to know how to keep things nice enough and useful enough that people stayed, and really liked the platform. It was a dictatorship, but a benevolent one.

And then Joffrey Lannister took over from Robert Baratheon and started trashing the place. Removing all value from Blue Ticks, letting extremists back on, removing APIs and most external viewing of tweets. It’s all resulted in a Twitter that’s less functional and noticeably less friendly than it was.

In the past 8 months or so, there has been a small exodus of people towards Mastodon, which is free of billionaire owners, but is difficult to get into, and hasn’t gained mainstream support – as Jeremy Burge wrote a few days ago, it’s mostly nerds.

In my usual Twitter circles, a few transport people moved across, but most didn’t. Journalists and politicians and organisations didn’t, at least not in Australia. And that’s important. Ultimately it’s not the system, but the participants, that keeps or brings people to a specific social media platform.

Others have tried. Bluesky hasn’t opened registrations publicly, and I suspect most Australians haven’t heard of it. Anyway it’s just Baratheon off the leash without advisers.

And now Threads from Meta has arrived. A different dictatorship, but so far it looks more similar to the old Twitter than the new one, or indeed Facebook. Paris Marx notes that people should not forget Meta’s record of dodgy practices.

Because Threads linked to Instagram, it’s taken off quicker. 30 million people have joined in the first day.

Unlike Mastodon, I’ve seen a lot of journalists, some politicians, and some organisations (including in transport) setting up on Threads, though it remains to be seen how much they’ll use it.

@ptua.vic on Threads

Threads is still missing some fundamental features.

  • a web interface that provides more than read-only access
  • a timeline of just who you’re following – rather than random stuff it gives you to fill up your screen. (Muting some of them seems to help, but following more people helps more.)
  • and really basic stuff like Alt tags for images – how did they get away with launching without that?
  • search for posts – currently you can only search for people
  • I hate to sound like an old man here, but an iPad app that can be used in landscape wouldn’t go astray
  • the ability to embed posts in other web sites – which can help drive traffic

What’s really interesting is that Meta says Threads will join the Fediverse. That’s geek talk for meaning it will interoperate with Mastodon, though the details are vague.

Threads clearly has momentum. Will it become the leader for Twitter-type discourse? Or will things just splinter even more? I wouldn’t like to predict.

It may depend if Twitter continues to self-destruct.

Perhaps it’s time for me to ease up on microblogging and focus on actual blogging instead.

You can follow me on Threads:

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

6 replies on “Social media: Threads vs Twitter”

Other things needed for Threads:
Allow use of 3rd party apps – particularly necessary if government/transport organisations are going to use it for a two way dialogue with customers/passengers. This includes apps to allow use on a PC/laptop.

I joined and looked at Masterdon. It did not work well for me.
I pine for the old IRC, the thieving Napster and the tweet from ICQ but we can’t go back. Twitter hasn’t failed personally yet for me, but I only follow and the usual suspects are still there.
I think Threads is a rush job from Meta and will be refined in time.

@Albert3801, I agree, and the other thing I notice missing is any way of copy text or pictures out of a post – unlike the other platforms.

“Bon” – while your comment was a good example of the type of unnecessarily aggressive response causing some people to migrate off Twitter, it has been rejected. Feel free to post your arguments in a more polite manner.

They are only saying Mastodon is a “failure” as some billionaire can’t make money off it. Mastodon will refuse to allow Threads to federate with it and will block it.

I would warn that Threads also has the same bot auto-moderation as the rest of Meta. I got a terms of service violation in less than 1 minute. Artists, sex workers and any not safe for advertiser content will be advised to stay off the platform.

Mastodon sounds like I need to keep a box of tissues handy, terrible branding. I didn’t think it would take off, and it hasn’t. Twitter is so easy to use and it still works, there have been portents of doom but it’s still highly functional. One has to pick ones way through and ignore the dross. Threads is still less useful, I maintain a state of watchful waiting.

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