After months of anticipation, Meta launched a short form social media app on July 5. Dubbed Threads, it was designed as an alternative to X (formerly known as Twitter). But if we take a look at its performance the past couple months, does it really compare?

Features and concerns

When examining the apps, there are some notable differences: Threads’ character limit is 500, as opposed to X’s 280. Threads also allows for longer videos: 5 minutes to X’s 2.5. But still being in its infancy, Threads is understandably less developed than X on the whole. There’s no direct messaging feature in Threads, and its ability to interface with other apps is severely hampered by its lack of an API, a software that would allow it to “communicate” with other programs.

One key concern about Threads is its lack of user privacy. In addition to typical data-monitoring, such as tracking the type of posts and ads users engage with, Meta can collect photos, videos, contacts, messages, and search histories from Threads users. Plus, it’s making it deliberately difficult to stop using Threads once you join; since Threads accounts link to users’ Instagram accounts, you can’t delete one and keep the other.

Crunching the numbers

Regardless of its shortcomings, Threads became the fastest-downloaded app ever upon its release, with over 100 million members joining in the first week. The interest in the new app was largely fueled by frustrations with Elon Musk’s changes to X and his routine criticisms of newsmakers (a demographic whose content is vital to X’s success), which have caused its users to grow restless. Particularly unpopular was Musk’s rebrand toward the end of July when he changed “Twitter” to X, and its instantly-recognizable blue logo to its new black one. Twitter had the kind of brand recognition most companies can only drool over. Changing it to the point of erasing its recognizability may give Threads a foothold in its race to contend with it.

In spite of the initial excitement, Threads’ growth has flagged, increasing from 100 million users the first week to just 128 million seven weeks later, and its daily activity is about 4% of X’s as of the end of August (a significant decline from around 20% at its peak in mid-July). For all the frustration X users feel toward Musk and the changes he’s made to the app, the established user base and fully-developed features of X are still too significant for users to consider Threads as a legitimate alternative.

Despite the unpopularity of its changes so far, X maintains a commanding grip on remaining the established short-form social media platform. Threads’ best chance of success is that X continues to change so much that it drives a significant mass of its users elsewhere.