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Meta Threads: The Good, the Bad, and the Concerning

What you need to know about the Meta Threads app.

Twitter has had a pretty rough year. Regardless of what you think about Elon Musk, it’s pretty clear that his changes to Twitter have made a lot of users consider jumping ship. If you’re one of them, you may be looking at the dozens of alternatives out there. Some are new, some have been around for a while, and all of them are hoping to welcome former Twitter users. Meta Threads, the new app from the company behind Facebook, is a top contender. But could it really be app to kill Twitter? And more importantly, is it safe?

It’s Like Twitter Without Being Twitter

The Meta Threads app is strongly tied to Instagram, but it is doing its best to feel familiar to Twitter users. It is a short-form text-based platform with an interface very similar to Twitter’s. It’s simple and easy to use – if you’ve figured out how to use Twitter, you can use Threads.

Threads also has many of the same tools and features as Twitter. You are able to follow people on the app. There is a scrolling feed that lets you see content, and buttons under each message allow you to like, repost, reply, and quote and tell you how many other people have liked and replied to each message. Like Twitter, Meta Threads also has an algorithm that shows you content from people you don’t follow, but that the algorithm thinks you’ll like.

The Meta Threads interface is very similar to Twitter.

There are a lot of social media apps out there claiming to be the best replacement for Twitter. But if what you really want is something that looks and behaves as much like Twitter as possible without actually being Twitter, Meta Threads is currently the top contender.

Meta Threads’ Advantages Over the Competition

Meta Threads is also a strong contender for the title of “Twitter killer” in other ways. A large part of what makes a social media network great is the people there. Threads has over 30 million downloads, making it the most-rapidly downloaded app ever. It has significantly more users than other alternatives like Mastodon, including many celebrities and brands.

Meta Threads also has Meta behind it – the same company that owns Facebook and Instagram. That’s a lot of money and technological capability supporting it. It also has the huge advantage of being connected to Instagram. When you sign up, you have the option to immediately import your Instagram username, bio, profile photo, and people you’re following into Meta Threads. That feature makes it incredibly easy to create an account and start posting. The simple interface similar to Twitter’s also makes it easy for people who have used Twitter but may not be tech gurus to understand how to use the app.

The Concerns About Meta Threads

Meta Threads is new. It currently lacks features like direct messages (DMs), hashtags, a chronological sorting option, or a following-only feed. (However, Meta says those features are in the works.) Its search function is also extremely limited. If you’re looking for an app with features as robust as Twitter’s, Meta Threads is not there yet.

Another thing some people aren’t happy about is how much Meta Threads is tied to Instagram. You have to have an Instagram account to sign up. And once you sign up, your Instagram account and your Meta Threads account are linked together. If you delete your Threads account, it also deletes your Instagram account.

There are also concerns about the app’s profitability and future potential. Meta has been investing heavily in their as-yet-unsuccessful metaverse and may choose to prioritize that – or one of their existing, already-successful social media networks – over something new. And there are also no ads, paid subscriptions, or anything else bringing in profit from Meta Threads. Meta has said that monetization will come eventually, but right now it is operating at a loss.

A final concern, and the biggest, is that Meta Threads is currently not very interesting. Right now, Threads is replicating the internet experience from a decade ago, outdated memes and all. Because it’s tied to your Instagram account, you’ll likely be following a mixture of acquaintances, brands, and influencers – not the interesting or funny people you prefer on Twitter. One writer described Meta Threads as “Twitter for people who are scared of Twitter.” Twitter fans are saying that right now, Meta Threads is boring, doesn’t provide interesting content, and is one of the least interesting options for Twitter alternatives.

Beware of Malware

As happens with anything that gets big, malicious actors want to get in on it. This isn’t a concern with Meta Threads itself, but with the process of downloading it. Criminals have created fake versions of the app and listed them on app stores hoping you will install them. But those fake versions are actually malware. Once you install the fake app, the criminals can either make your phone unusable until you pay them or quietly steal your personal information.

If you want to download Meta Threads, make sure you get the genuine one! The real app is published by Instagram, so check the publisher before you start any downloads.

Privacy Issues with the Meta Threads App

If you care at all about keeping your private and sensitive data private, this section is important. Any app available on iPhones has to make some mandatory privacy disclosures. These disclosures and the Meta Threads privacy policy reveal that the app may collect some highly sensitive information. This includes your health information, your financial data, your precise location, your browsing history, your contacts, your search history, and more. It’s currently not available in the EU because of privacy concerns with the EU’s GDPR privacy protections.

You can limit a little of this data collection through your Instagram settings or settings on your phone. But Meta Threads still collects vastly more data than any of the other Twitter alternatives – or even Twitter itself. And because Threads is a Meta app, that data can be combined with information from your Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or other Meta apps to create an extremely thorough and in-depth profile of you and your online activity.

Meta having all this data about you puts you at risk. Meta could use this information to create incredibly targeted ad campaigns or manipulate you into doing or buying something. And even if you don’t care if Meta has your data, there’s no guarantee your data will stay with them. They could potentially sell your profile to other companies wanting to advertise to you. They could turn over information to the government or law enforcement without telling you. Or a data breach could expose your private and sensitive information to any hacker or scammer who cares to look.

Privacy Features

Meta Threads does have a few features to help with privacy and the app experience. You are able to mute or block accounts, hide specific words, limit who can mention you, and even set your profile entirely to private. These features are in the app’s settings under the Privacy option.

Will It Be a Twitter Killer?

When trying to determine if Meta Threads will be the app to kill Twitter, the social media savvy may remember that Meta has played that game before. Facebook Stories was designed to kill Snapchat. Instagram Reels was designed to compete with TikTok. While both have been successful, neither feature has successfully killed the competition.

There’s a lot of chaos around Twitter right now. Many users are trying to decide if they should find an alternative – and if they should, which one they should pick. There are a lot of options, and there are no guarantees that Meta Threads will be the best choice. What defines success in a social media app is the users. They have to get into the habit of posting on the app and create a culture that other users will buy into. It’s ultimately too early to tell what kind of culture Threads users will build, let alone if it will be one that attracts Twitter users.

All that said, should you join Meta Threads? The app has some very limited functionality due to being so new, and it also has some major privacy concerns. To make a decision, balance those concerns against the benefits of being an early adopter of a top “Twitter killer” contender. If being early to a new thing is important to you and you think Threads has a good chance of becoming big, go ahead and sign up. But if privacy is a major concern for you, you probably shouldn’t create an account quite yet.

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