Threads App: Boom, Controversies, and Concerns

Threads, an Instagram app for text-based messaging was launched on July 6. In only one week, it saw more than 100 million downloads. However, with such a whopping number of downloads came various controversies and privacy concerns.

What’s even more interesting, the hype seems to be pretty short-lived. The tracking companies registered a drop in both engagement and growth.

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threads app

Illustration: Lenka T.

Instagram’s revolutionary Threads app has achieved a remarkable feat, surpassing a staggering 100 million users in record time. While it took ChatGPT two months, TikTok, nine months and Instagram two and a half years to reach such a figure, Threads accomplished the same feat within a matter of days. 

The new app made an instant impact, enchanting users right from the start. Within the first two hours only, it garnered an impressive user base of 2 million, and the numbers continued to escalate steadily, reaching 5 million, 10 million, 30 million, 70 million, and ultimately peaking at a remarkable 100+ million users.  

This extraordinary reception far exceeded the expectations of Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.


Source: Threads

A significant leg up for such an instant boom is the link between Instagram and Threads accounts. It significantly facilitates 1.6 billion Instagram users (outside EU) to sign up for Threads and start engaging with the already existing audience. The users’ dissatisfaction with Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter is yet another factor that adds up to the current success of the novel app. 

But, given that the Threads app belongs to Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, it was only a matter of time when concerns and controversies will pop up.  

Privacy concerns 

Threads relies on Instagram and its community to obtain new users – otherwise, it would be highly unlikely to acquire such a high number of profiles in just a few days. The link between the two social networks, however, is pretty tricky. 

Supposing that you download and install Threads, only to realize you don’t like the app. The next logical step is to delete the app and the profile. And this is catch 22. 

Namely, Threads allows you only to deactivate your profile; deleting it for good is impossible. Actually, it is possible but it implies deleting your Instagram account as well. Yet, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri promised that this option will be available soon. 


Source: Threads

How soon it will be possible to permanently delete a Threads account, time will show.  

The fact that you can’t delete a profile without affecting the “parent” Instagram account is not the sole privacy concern. If you’re not too lazy to bother and read the description on the App Store (or Google Play), you will notice that Threads collect every possible data about you. 

This is not so surprising, though. If you have an Instagram or Facebook account, Meta already knows literally everything about you – your blood type, favorite coffee shop, and who you used to have beef with when you were a high school junior.  

Is such a large amount of data necessary for proper functioning of the app? Absolutely not, but Zuck loves to know everything about you.  

Joking aside, this massive data collection might be one of the reasons the app didn’t launch in the EU simultaneously with the USA and the rest of the world. 

“Competition is fine, cheating is not” 

Meta’s approach to Threads could potentially rekindle longstanding criticisms regarding the company’s alleged strategy of copying and eliminating competitors. This situation becomes even more significant as Twitter has issued a warning to Meta, expressing its intention to sue over accusations of trade secret theft (an allegation that Meta vehemently denies). 

As reported by Semafor, in a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter attorney Alex Spiro accused the company of “systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” in order to build Threads. 

In particular, Spiro made specific claims suggesting that Meta had recruited numerous former Twitter employees who possessed and still have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and highly confidential information. According to him, this insider knowledge played a significant role in Meta’s development of the Threads app, which he referred to as a “copycat” product. 

“Twitter intends to strictly enforce its intellectual property rights, and demands that Meta take immediate steps to stop using any Twitter trade secrets or other highly confidential information.  Twitter reserves all rights, including, but not limited to, the right to seek both civil remedies and injunctive relief without further notice,” states the letter. 

A drop in engagement 

The weekend was not so “engaging” for the Threads app. According to data from Sensor Tower and Similarweb, the tracking companies, the new social network experienced a dip in engagement. As Anthony Bartolacci, a managing director at Sensor Tower shared for CNBC “the Threads launch really did ‘break the internet,’ or at least the Sensor Tower models. In the 10-plus years Sensor Tower has been estimating app installs, the first 72 hours of Threads was truly in a class by itself.” 

Yet, he added that his company recorded a considerable decline in user engagement since the launch of the app. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the number of users per day dropped by 20% from Saturday, while the time spent per user declined by 50% – from 20 minutes to only 10 minutes.  

Data from Spiderweb suggests similar tendencies. Between the Threads’ peak on Friday, July 7, and Monday, July 10, there was a dropoff of over 25% in daily active users. The company also recorded the decline in usage time, with the average amount of time spent by U.S. users on the app plummeting by over half. Specifically, the data indicated that the average usage time decreased from approximately 20 minutes on July 6 to slightly over 8 minutes on July 10. 

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