Only 5 days in and Threads boasts 100 million downloads. Of course, it’s easier to reach such a number so quickly when you’re mining an existing user base like Instagram (and not letting people cancel without cancelling their Instagram account as well). Despite its attachment to Instagram and Meta, Threads is still a new application and for new platforms, usage, not downloads, is what counts most. 

Let us take Google+ as an example. The application initially drew 90 million “users” six months after it launched in 2011 but eventually shut down because no one spent any time on it. Therefore, let us imagine that six months from now a decent portion of the audience that downloaded Threads is using it frequently. The next question to ask is what that usage is replacing. After all, as people are now spending more than four hours a day on mobile apps, usage of Threads seems more likely to displace usage of other apps than add to the total time spent on apps generally. Some migration is likely coming from Twitter, judging by the number of Twitter users who are bragging on Twitter about how they’ve moved to the new app (including myself). 

There are, however, several differences between Threads and Twitter. One notable difference is the overall more positive tone. Many users are steering clear of left and right politics and the new app seems to host less racism, misogyny, homophobia and other nasty Andrew Tate like -isms than Twitter. TikTok creator Coco Mocoe, who works as a full time trend predictor, suggested that this is also due to the connection between Threads and Instagram, putting a clearer face to the user meaning they’re more exposed and therefore less likely to post ‘problematic’ content. 

It should be noted, however, that any time spent on Threads that displaces usage of Instagram isn’t ideal for Meta Platforms, at least not in the short term, as there are no ads on Threads. Meta made a similar mistake last year, when it was first promoting its TikTok-like Reels feature on Instagram and Facebook, initially without ads. Meta executives blamed the resulting shift of users to Reels for contributing to a drastic slowdown in ad growth. In the long run, of course, Meta will rectify this, as it has done for Reels, by selling ads on Threads. 

But it’s a little early to start estimating—as some analysts have done—the revenue impact of Threads. Given that Threads falls somewhere between Twitter and Instagram in style and content, it’s hard to judge its potential permanent audience. There’s no question that Threads has sent ripples across the social media app landscape. Just what its impact will be, and on which other apps, won’t be clear for a good long while. In the meantime, all we are getting is a lot of hullabaloo over download numbers. And for all we know, most of the people downloading Threads are simply curious to see what the fuss is all about—and open it just once.

Moving forward for brands, small spend and light testing could arguably be the way to go. Take Mediterranean restaurant chain Cava who originally planned to go public at between $17 and $19 a share, but by the time the offering was finalised, went at $22 a share. And when trading started, the stock doubled. Beauty products company Oddity, which filed last month to go public, seems to have learned that lesson.

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