With Twitter alternatives, and Meta dominator Threads, popping out left, right and centre we are ironically concluding that we may actually never have an app genuinely alike to Twitter ever again. 

Twitter served up a lively, often incoherent mix of paradigm-shifting cultural phenomena (Arab Spring, the Me Too movement, Black Twitter), breaking news, corporate existentialist brand building and tweet-addled U.S. presidents. 

There have been many Twitter alternatives but none have managed to replicate this tone. This question now is whether Threads will be able to or even want to be that place for users. What we do know is that less than 48 hours in, Threads is a chaotic and celebratory refuge for people relieved to simply have a version of Twitter that actually works.

When it comes to brand usage of the platform, Twitter was once a place where brands could park and reliably communicate to their customers. More often than not, this usage consisted of pretty mundane stuff, like customer service, real-time updates and company blog posts. This could work pretty well for a Meta app since Meta isn’t exactly all about fun (unlike TikTok). Instagram isn’t fun either, but it does function well as a personal landing page for anybody trying to sell something or build a brand

Like Instagram, Threads isn’t likely to create much in the way of culture. Instagram’s viciously fickle algorithm coupled with its extreme culture of curation discourages experimentation, funnelling it’s often exhausted creators toward a few proven visual styles — captions with 450+ words of text and vacation medley Reels with that one viral sound this week. There’s little room for error.

Where Twitter was a home for quality content from brands, celebrities, organisations and governments as well as for unhinged terminally online posts, Threads is likely to push the former and cancel the latter. 

On Threads, there are no ads for now. But recall that Facebook allowed Instagram to flourish for years virtually ad-free — a version of the app that’s almost impossible to recall now that Instagram users must now choke down a truly prodigious amount of advertising to do anything at all on the app. In earnings calls during those first years, Mark Zuckerberg often spoke about twisting Instagram’s ad spigot gradually. Ten years later, Instagram’s users have been boiled alive, and we never stood a chance of hopping out of the pot. By now, advertising — not content — is Instagram’s substrate. Users have slowly, unwittingly adapted to breathing underwater in a sea of ads.

Threads may turn out to be more chaotic than Instagram (almost anything would be), but ultimately the platform’s culture won’t really matter. Meta is a company that’s spent years at this point stealing its rivals’ best ideas pixel for pixel, and now that’s finally a useful strategy rather than an embarrassing one. Everyone is on Instagram and everyone will probably wind up on Threads too, whether they enjoy it or not will be beside the point.

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