Unravelling Threads

The App Store notified me last night that the app had been installed on my phone after I'd pre-saved it the other day. It came at a good time. I'd finished my work and chores for the day and had just sat down to relax. I signed up using my personal Instagram account.

So, another Twitter clone. [1] I'm present on all of them, active on one. And while I don't really need Meta's take on microblogging in my life, I know it's the most likely to last. The advantage being a built-in network of 2 billion users.

Signing Up

The registration process was extremely straightforward. Threads knows about my Instagram accounts and gave me a list of them. I picked one and it gave me the option to replace or autofill my Bio, link, and profile image. I opted for the latter.

You're given the opportunity to follow all of the folks you do on Instagram. If they haven't signed up yet, you'll follow them when they do.

According to the new badge on my Instagram profile, I am the 1,029,429th user on the platform. That's an impressive statistic given I joined within an hour of the app being available. According to Zuckerberg, 5 million signed up within the first four hours. 30 million were registered in the first sixteen. [2]

The Feed

There is only one feed and it is algorithmic. This struck me immediately after refreshing it for the first time. Despite following a lot of technology-bent people who either had early access or were otherwise incentivized to adopt early, I estimate that over 80% of my feed was made up of posts from users that I had never heard of before. Most of them appearing to be accounts followed by accounts I follow. The experience was pretty terrible.

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri revealed somewhere (and I tried very hard to find the post) that the firehose was turned on to fill timelines for users with few follows while there weren't very many users on the app.

It didn't take long for the familiar trappings of popular social media to present themselves. I "Suggested for you" carousel appeared recommending accounts such as Shakira, 9GAG, and Richard Branson. A user by the name "buster" showed up, hawking some sort of Logan Paul energy beverage. Buster became my first mute. After doing that, I saw 5 more "posts from this user are muted" appear on my timeline.

This was one hour in to public access. Had people worked out the algorithm or was this a circumstance of too few blue checks fighting for dominance?

Unlike account information, following relationships are not tied to Instagram. New followers on Threads to not translate to follows on IG. You can maintain distinct profile privacy selections between the two. Similarly, unfollows are not shared either. Not that this matters, because unfollow actions on Threads are not reliable. Any accounts I unfollowed were refollowed without input within the hour. I tested this on a particularly annoying YouTuber three times yesterday. On the fourth try, it stuck.

There are no ads yet, but there is not reason to believe there won't be. When they come, will they appear after every 4th post like Instagram?

Features & Design

Threads has search, but only for accounts. There is no way to find content by keyword, hashtags, or otherwise. The notifications screen is solid and snappy with a few filters for replies, mentions, and verified user interactions. Follow events only appear in "All."

The post (thread? threat?) composition window is sparse, but rich where it counts. The character limit is 500 and rich link previews populate. Images can be added and will be displayed in a compact carousel rather than a grid. I've noticed some weirdness when hitting "return" after a link, this leaves the rich preview in the first post, but moves the text link to a second post in the thread. This feels unintended.

Profile layouts here are really good. They're simple and even more condensed than Instagram's. Follower count is the only metric visible. No following or counts are visible without tapping through. Post counts aren't visible at all. There are jumplinks to IG profiles and a post notifications are available.

Actual threads of posts are connected with a cute loop connector on the reply indicator line.

For now, there is no web app.

State of the Platform

Overall, the threads platform appeared stable during its first wave of onboarding users. Millions stampeded onto the app, which remained snappy—even when certain requests failed.

My first crash came when I "followed all" of my Instagram follows and there was some weird behaviour observed with that afterwards. Certain users that were active on Threads were not followed and users that joined later were not autofollowed. But that wasn't consistent.

Even today, visiting Mark Zuckerberg's profile from the iOS app shows no content in the timeline of Threads. His reply filter is populated, but his public updates of user growth are not. They are visible from the web.


Look, this is Meta. There is zero expectation of privacy on any of their platforms. It's why I left Facebook so many years ago and it's why I abandoned WhatsApp after their acquisition. I've stuck around on Instagram begrudgingly for lack of a better alternative which is the only reason I'm even trying Threads.

I pulled the privacy policies of Threads, Twitter, Bluesky, and Mastodon on the iOS App Store. Any guesses who collects the most? The least?

I also looked through the account settings to see how account deletion works. Deactivation of your Threads profile can be done independent of your Instagram profile. If you want to delete your Threads account, you'll have to delete both.

Thread composition does have reply controls. Like contemporary platforms, you can choose to allow anyone to reply (the default) or limit it to profiles you follow or mention.

From the settings area, you can turn on some "Hidden Words" features. This lets you hide replies with "offensive words, phrases, or emoji." Meta has a list of these you can opt into or you can set your own.


Meta has been threatening promising to federate Threads via the ActivityPub protocol, the one used by Mastodon, Microblog, PeerTube, Pleroma, Lemmy, and Pixelfed. I'm wary about this, given the fediverse only has 3 million active users today. When Meta joins, they will make up the majority of it on day one. Mastodon founder Eugen Rochko wrote up a post about Threads and its forthcoming role in things that's worth reading.

For the unfamiliar, from Wikipedia:

The fediverse (a portmanteau of "federation" and "universe") is an ensemble of federated (i.e. interconnected) servers that are used for web publishing (i.e. social networking, microblogging, blogging, or websites) and file hosting, which, while independently hosted, can communicate with each other.

On different servers (technically instances), users can create so-called identities. These identities can communicate across the boundaries of the instances because the software running on the servers supports one or more communication protocols that follow an open standard. As identities on the fediverse, users can post text and other media, or follow posts by other identities. In some cases, users can show or share data (video, audio, text, and other files) publicly or to a selected group of identities, and allow other identities to edit other users' data (such as a calendar or an address book). A key distinguishing feature of the fediverse is decentralization. There is no central authority that controls or determines what is acceptable as each instance is independent.

The idea here is that social platforms can exist as splintered, but inter-communicable pieces of a wider network. This way the tools we use to communicate and the content we create aren't beholden to the whims of an insane billionaire or board of corporate shills. If you don't like how a server is run, you can pick up and leave with your content and existing followers in tow.

It doesn't take a large stretch of the imagination to understand why Meta coming into that is, in some ways, a little threatening. From an advertising standpoint alone, they are not incentivized to participate in the spirit of the decentralized net.


From what I can tell, there is none. No alt text. No accessibility settings. I'd love to hear from any sight-impaired users. Can the blind even use Threads?

Dark Patterns

My biggest gripe with the platform came this morning as my phone rolled off of its Do Not Disturb schedule. The sound of unyielding vibrations woke me up. Why? Hundreds of follow requests started rolling two hours before.

I thought this was particularly weird. Not only am I not popular enough for that, my profile is public. No requests needed. Accounts can follow away without any intervention on my part. No, the requests were coming in for all of my other accounts. Accounts I have not used and did not plan to use on Threads.

Through a side project, I have an account with 137k followers. That was the main culprit. At some point last night, a change was pushed on Meta's side to allow requests to accounts not yet present on the platform. Opening these notifications takes you to the profile editing screen to complete a signup I never initiated. Completing the registration and manually turning off notifications is the only way to stop them.

What's worse, after making the account public, I had to manually accept the pending requests. This differs from Instagram where a private account can merely go public momentarily to accept follow requests in bulk.

Forcing large accounts to join your platform through a barrage of uninterruptible notifications is unquestionably terrible. But given Meta's history, I'm not at all surprised.


Threads looks good and works well for a brand new platform. The timeline is pretty much unusable to me at this point, but this could be easily remedied with a timeline comprised strictly of accounts I elect to read.

Edit: As I hit publish on this, it appears the timeline has been relieved of posts from random bluechecks and "follows of follows." It's a markedly improved experience already. It got bad again?

I'd like to see more accessibility features. I'd like to not be harangued into creating multiple accounts. I'd like content search and hashtags. Apart from these crucial features, I like that it's simple. Twitter got worse the more bloated it became. Meta has other platforms for those kinds of things. Keeping Threads as a text-centric microblogging alternative to the Elon ego machine is worthwhile.

Will I use Threads a lot? Probably not. Leaving Twitter and weaning myself off Reddit has been good for the ol' noggin. I'm posting more here and on Mastodon, which is more my speed. But hey, if my less tech-focused friends find this a worthwhile place to hang out online, I'll be there in some capacity.[3] If the ActivityPub integration works well, I won't have to. I will be able to interact through my existing fediverse accounts.[4]

That's the promise of the decentralized net. I doubt Meta will respect it, [5] but I'd love to be proven wrong.

More on Threads:

  1. They're popping up every week it seems. ↩︎

  2. I was user 30,465,195 on Twitter after joining 3 years in. ↩︎

  3. It's kind of nice, actually having a place to talk to strangers about my interests (Mastodon) and other places to talk directly to personal friends (Signal, Discord, Instagram). ↩︎

  4. So who knows how this will play out. We'll wait and see. ↩︎

  5. See Facebook chat and XMPP or Google Mail and SMTP for examples of open standards abandoned in favor of proprietary APIs. ↩︎