doesn’t give


a reason to exist

Toby Daniels
Co founder ON_Discourse

What justification does Threads, Meta’s by-the-numbers Twitter clone, have to exist beyond expanding the Facebook monolith? If you listen to the company, Threads will be a bold experiment in decentralized social networking… at some vague point in the future.

Meta has said that it plans to make Threads part of the fediverse, the web of independent social networks that run on a social networking protocol called ActivityPub.. The idea behind the fediverse is to let users seamlessly connect and migrate between different platforms. The closest example of such an interoperable ecosystem in operation today is email. It doesn’t matter where someone’s email address is hosted; an email sent from one provider to another arrives exactly the same.

Most fediverse projects are built around technology from the ground up as a core feature. Yet Threads has already launched as a centralized social network almost identical to Twitter, following Meta’s long-established playbook of cloning successful features from competitors when it can’t just buy them out entirely. This model has worked for Meta because its sheer scale perpetuates itself. Its platforms’ ubiquity allows Meta to saturate the market with cloned versions of competitors’ features before they have a chance to catch up.

But with Threads, Meta is going one step further and cloning a competitor wholesale. Twitter (now known as X, courtesy of a hasty and baffling rebrand) is in rapid decline due to technical mismanagement, fleeing advertisers, and the plummeting quality of its content. While that might have created an opportunity to snatch away Twitter users, Meta has yet to mount a convincing case that Threads has any purpose other than expanding its own reach.

Meta has yet

to mount a

convincing case that


has any


other than

expanding its

own reach.

It has yet to give users any reason to believe that Threads will improve on Twitter, which is irrevocably broken. It hasn’t even bothered to experiment with a new business model like subscriptions, which would make users the customer instead of the product. Instead, it’s more of the same.

Without a compelling reason Threads should exist in the first place, why not turn to buzzwords and obfuscation? Enter its promises to adopt the ActivityPub protocol.

Should we take seriously the idea that Meta, the historical inheritor of AOL’s walled garden model, will snap its fingers and suddenly embrace the ethos of decentralization and user and data migration? It takes a month just to delete a Facebook account. Moreover, it’s hard to believe users care much about decentralization at the scale Threads is operating at.

The largest of Threads’s fediverse competitors, Mastodon, has a niche audience of less than 14 million users—a figure Threads dwarfed in a few days of pushing signups through Instagram.

Most social media users aren’t interested in the arcana of federated services, and those that are probably aren’t big on the idea of it getting a big Facebook injection.

Even if Threads does implement the ActivityPub protocol, it’s less likely that the fediverse will impart new ideas on Meta than Meta will impose its self-serving ones on the fediverse. As Wired reported, ActivityPub isn’t plug-and-play—Meta will retain control over factors like how closely Threads users will be able to interact with other fediverse networks, how easy it will be to migrate their accounts and data to competing services, and what Threads content will be displayed across the fediverse.

With Threads potentially positioned to become the primary portal via which users access the federated social world, it could exert massive influence on how those rivals are forced to operate not to mention the ad networks which monetize them.

But why would it bother? Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp have already hit near-total saturation—a novel problem for a company whose value has historically been based on explosive growth—and there’s no reason for Meta to compete with itself at a time when it’s desperately trying to retain users.

Presumably, the overwhelming majority of Threads users already have accounts on other Meta services, which means Threads can also be understood as a way of luring users who have stopped posting on Facebook back into engaging with another arm of the Meta ecosystem. (This should also make advertisers wary of Threads, lest they be convinced they should spend even more on another Meta platform just to reach the same users.)

Meanwhile, not only is Threads very much not built around ActivityPub from the ground up, Meta has yet to set any timetable on which this integration will happen. Earlier this month, Adam Mosseri alluded to “a number of complications,” which made the time frame for federation indeterminate beyond not at launch.

Right now, the only purpose Threads serves is as a growing number for Meta to point to on a spreadsheet. Federating doesn’t change that.

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