There have been many copies of Twitter before, none of which have been able to make much of a dent in the usage or cultural importance of the OG platform. That is until Threads. 

An obvious reason behind the success (in the form of 150 million downloads in its first week) is that in being part of Meta, Threads already boasts a huge user base. You literally have to have an Instagram platform to sign up. Secondly, Threads seems to have solved the handful of key issues that prevented other would-be Twitter replacements from taking off. Threads just works with no qualms. There are none of the limits on sign-ups of Jack Dorsey-affiliated Bluesky. Thanks in part to the fact that it is an offshoot of the already popular Instagram app, Threads is much simpler to join and use than the open-source Twitter alternative Mastodon. And so far Threads has evidenced none of the continuing technical problems of Twitter, which on Wednesday morning suffered another significant outage.

Threads in its early days (and that includes right now) has purposefully simplified itself to encourage onboarding. There is no DM feature, no spaces and no option to hashtag. In a Meta document leaked last week, this is set to change gradually once users are comfortable with the app. 

The fact that platforms become more attractive the more people use them can be a powerful growth driver. Threads caught fire in its early days in part because people saw that others were joining, creating the conditions for the type of active discussion that has long been Twitter’s special sauce. Threads’s ability to leverage the more than one billion existing active users of Instagram allowed it to bypass the early, awkward adolescence that most social networks have to overcome.

But no matter how smart Threads launch proved itself to be, its true success stems from Twitter’s own failings. Just as Threads was launching, Musk instituted limits on the number of tweets that could be viewed by users, spurring even some high-profile Twitter fans on the site to declare that these curbs were, in the words of one, “destroying” the service. One could then conclude that Twitter is making itself irrelevant even without Threads competition. 

In the first two days of Threads’s existence, traffic to Twitter was down 5% compared with the week prior, according to SimilarWeb, a digital data and analytics company. That drop is part of a steady decline in traffic to Twitter already under way, with a net decline of 11% since the same period last year, according to SimilarWeb.

Overall, in the six days since Threads launched—that is, looking at data through Monday July 11—web traffic to Twitter.com was down 3.2% compared to an average day in the prior month. However, daily active users for Twitter’s app on iPhones and iPads was down only 1.6%, and usage on its Android app was virtually unchanged, says a spokesman for SimilarWeb.

This could indicate that Threads’s initial effect on Twitter’s usage was short-lived, and that any long-term declines in engagement on Twitter are happening on account of other factors. It is too early to make an accurate conclusion. 

Interestingly on July 10 Musk tweeted that he believed the service could hit an all-time record in the amount of time its users collectively spent viewing it on their phones. One possible explanation for the discrepancy: Fewer people are using Twitter, but those who stick around are spending more time there, for example to view the kinds of long-form video that Musk has recently touted.

That would mean that currently, Twitter is far from irrelevant. To take one measure: Data from Diffbot, which indexes the web in a way that’s similar to search engines like Google, indicate that news sites across the political spectrum have continued to both link to and cite Twitter.

Threads’s early boost doesn’t guarantee success unless it can ensure users are excited about staying. Otherwise, its eye-popping numbers could rapidly shift from 100 million instals to a tiny fraction of that, in terms of daily active users. There’s always the possibility that Threads might never reach a scale at which Facebook will derive much value from allowing marketers to advertise there, even if it were to capture most of Twitter’s users. After peaking at 49 million users on Android on July 7, Threads had dropped to 28 million users by July 12, according to SimilarWeb.

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