Discussions in decline?  Don't count out Instagram's new Twitter rival just yet |  TechCrunch

Discussions in decline? Don’t count out Instagram’s new Twitter rival just yet | TechCrunch

Image credits: Bloomberg / Contributor / Getty Images

A Wall Street Journal article on Friday warns that Instagram’s new Twitter competitor, Threads, is already losing ground. Citing third-party data from Sensor Tower, the paper reports that the number of daily active users on Thread dropped for the second week to 13 million, a 70% drop from its high point on July 7. By comparison, Twitter’s daily active users number around 200 million. Despite this seemingly worrying trend, it’s still too early to rule out Thread. By other metrics, the app continues to grow its user base and traction in global markets, which, over time, could also increase its usage, especially as the apps’ feature set improves.

A highly anticipated new app is expected to have stellar usage numbers in its early days, as users set up their accounts, find and follow friends, and test the apps’ features. As the novelty wears off, it’s also typical to see usage numbers drop as users slip back into their old habits as they determine if and how they’ll continue to fit the new app into their daily routines. Additionally, the WSJ points out, Meta executives said they have plans for an eventual decline and don’t see this drop in usage as a concern.

Neither do we. Threads is still too new and too incomplete to make any kind of determination about its ultimate fate. Could it be a first record that ultimately fails? Safe. But it could also be a legitimate Twitter killer or mid-level hit. It’s just too early to tell.

Launching on July 5 in global markets excluding the EU, Threads surpassed 100 million users within days of its arrival to become the fastest app to reach that milestone, ahead of Pokémon GO, according to app intelligence firm data.ai. During its first three days, it had 18.3 percent of Twitter’s daily active users, or 54.4 million versus Twitter’s 298 million. Within the past week, data.ai estimated that the app still had about a fifth of Twitter’s weekly active user base.

Image credits: data.ai

App installs for Threads peaked on July 9, just days after its launch, when 24.5 million people downloaded the app globally on iOS and Android, data.ai says. But while the initial buzz may have faded, the app has continued to see over 1 million new downloads per day over the past few days, for example from 1.76 million on July 16 to 1.06 million on July 20. Any new app on the market would be thrilled to see numbers like these, though perhaps Threads should be judged more harshly because it takes advantage of the network effects provided by the nature of its core Instagram app and Meta’s broader resources.

Data.ai estimates that the app has logged 185.32 million cumulative global downloads.

Image credits: data.ai

Image credits: data.ai

Another key point to note is that Threads is gaining momentum in emerging mobile markets where downloads are still growing. The United States is only the third-largest market, data.ais analysis shows. As of July 17, India and Brazil accounted for the largest number of installations, at 60.1 million (32.6%) and 40.2 million (21.8%) respectively. The US delivered 27.8 million downloads or 15.1%. That’s why analytics firm Similarwebs’ analysis of US Android usage dropping from 21 minutes on July 7 to 6 minutes on July 14 can’t tell the whole story.

While Thread’s usage may have declined for now, as data from Sensor Tower shows, its early usage numbers have demonstrated its potential as a rival to Twitter. In its early days on the market, Thread users spent an average of 15 minutes a day on the app, across 9.4 app sessions. That’s more than the microblogging category average, which according to data.ai includes Twitter, Truth Social, Mastodon, and Bluesky. Microblogging users therefore spent an average of 12.5 minutes a day in 7.8 app sessions.

What’s keeping people from using Thread more as of late may not be a disappointment with the app’s concept itself, but rather with its current feature set, compared to Twitter. Threads, while now publicly available, is effectively still a beta version of an unfinished app without a number of features users want in a microblogging tool, such as a chronological timeline, feed following, the ability to view your likes, a fully functional web version, an edit button, multiple account support, and more. These features are still in the works, along with Threads’ planned integration with ActivityPub, the protocol that powers Twitter’s open-source alternative to Mastodon.

Indeed, in a thread on Threads (ha), users were quick to defend the app against the narrative that the app was dead, noting that people should be more patient and wait for needed features, and reminding others that Instagram wasn’t an overnight success either.

Another post, led by social media consultant Matt Navarra, asked for discussions is To this, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri responded to a work in progress. Among hundreds of other responses, many posted positive messages, calling the app an opportunity, better than Twitter, an inspiration, an exciting one, and more an indication that Threads is already building a community of fans.

Another indication is the US App Store rating, a 3.8-star rating out of 20,000 reviews. Diving into the losing spots, it seems many of those downgrading the app are doing so due to its incomplete nature, calling it a promising start but removing stars for lacking certain features. In comparison, Instagram has a 4.7-star rating and Facebook a 2.3. Another thing that Threads has in its favor, based on these reviews and other online conversations, is that the app, for now, seems less toxic than Twitter, several users have noted.

While Twitter users they are already dancing on Threads’ grave, thanks to the WSJ report, the reality is that it’s too early to report the decline in Threads usage in week two and come to the conclusion that Threads is dying. An app that breaks records out of the gate and keeps adding users still has a long way to go and has time to deliver the features people want, in order to regain traction.

Seven-year-old Mastodon, Twitter’s decentralized rival on social networks, also continues to grow on the heels of Elon Musk’s missteps with Twitter. After the Twitter acquisition, Mastodon peaked at 2.5 million monthly active users. By the time Threads launched, Mastodon was down to 1.7 million monthly users. It has since started growing again, now seeing 2.1 million monthly active users. These things come and go.

There’s also an online culture that’s more willing to experiment with new apps, whether it’s Twitter alternatives like Threads and Bluesky, Reddit alternatives like Lemmy and Kbin, or new ways to network like TikTok instead of the old Facebook.

Also, for Thread to be successful, Twitter must not fail completely. Users can choose between them or they can use both. It’s not necessarily a zero-sum game.

That said, Meta doesn’t have a great track record for launching successful new apps having shut down almost everything it’s built (instead of simply acquiring) over the years. Threads may one day become just another app added to her graveyard.

But in the meantime, an app with around 116 million users and growing is far from dead.

Image credits: Quiver Qty

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