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Dear Elon Musk, Do You Feel Thread-ened?by@dearelonmusk
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Dear Elon Musk, Do You Feel Thread-ened?

by Dear Elon Musk,August 30th, 2023
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Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey created SMS-based social app Threads in 2007. Dorsey's team threatened to sue Meta for poaching former employees to create Threads. Meta confirmed that no one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee. Is this the downfall of Twitter? Will Threads be put to use?

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Dear Elon Musk,


I hope this email finds you well. I’m writing this email with regards to a message that won’t fit into a mere teXt message.


All in all, do you feel threatened? Or, to put it into perspective - do you feel Thread-ened?


But first… Let’s take a walk down memory lane…


Larry the Bird (and not the basketball legend)

My first exposure to a text-based social app was through my favorite childhood teen dramas like Victorious, or more specifically, The Slap, whereas for others, it would’ve been twttr.


NYU student Jack Dorsey shared the idea of an SMS-based social app with his colleagues, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams, from Odeo. What started as a side project soon had its debut in 2006, which eventually saw an influx of users, especially in 2007.


One could say that the Twitter community was in a league of its own, often credited as a pioneer of the latest information, trends, and memes. Twitter as a whole, holds a special place in our hearts, thus, it is hard to be “replaced”, even with the rise of seemingly concerning phenomenons like the growth of bots and the spread of controversial statements.


It’s no wonder that even with the handoff of the long-standing reputation of Twitter as it is, to your ownership, users continued to stay loyal to the platform. Even though your term was short-lived as you passed the baton to Linda Yaccarino, I understand that you continue to “keep an eye” on its operations.

Threads versus Twitter

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - although it’s quoted as “Instagram for your thoughts”, it’s undeniable that the similarities are uncanny.


Meta released Threads as a new way to share text, one of the major twists is that it conforms to the ActivityPub protocol by allowing users to share content across different platforms. In Meta’s case, the user’s Threads profile is interchangeable with their Instagram accounts, thus the frustration of Threads users such that if they choose to delete their Threads profile, their Instagram profiles would be met with the same fate.


I, for one, would like to isolate certain platforms for different use cases - I’d prefer not having my professional network on LinkedIn to be able to pry into my personal life as I display on Instagram. On the flip side, as a content creator, I can pull in my followers from YouTube to Instagram, without having to start from the ground up again. wbu?


Here’s a great overview of the new protocol by the Harvard Business Review:

The Impact

Meta was able to leverage their large user base on Instagram to propel signups for Threads, but this can’t undermine the significant hype around the social platform as it saw 100 million sign-ups within the first five days of launch, even with its premature features.


It’s clear that Threads took advantage of your situation - the decline in user satisfaction on Twitter was the momentum needed for Threads' boost to power. Eventually, there was the drama of Team Twitter vs Team Threads.


And when things got out of hand, your team even threatened to sue Meta for poaching former employees to create Threads. This was, however, to no avail, as Meta confirmed that no one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee.


Now the conversation continues - Is this the downfall of Twitter? Will Threads be taking over?


To put this into perspective, some key features are crucial to determine the outcome:


  • The speed of Meta’s new feature releases on Threads
  • Twitter’s continuous efforts to make Twitter a safer social platform
  • The rise of a unified social media identity


Now let’s take a deep dive into some concerns that may affect this race…

The Controversy

Twitter/X

Problematic rebranding strategies

You decided to rebrand Twitter as X, which may be an homage to your previous venture, of which garnered a lot of attention amidst the fanfare for Threads. On the other hand, the rebranding to X included using a bright sign to shine into San Francisco’s apartments. Countless memes surfaced on having to reorganize shortcut apps on one’s home screen while residents of SF became irritated at having to be contented with living in an EDM festival.


Despite the frustration of most, there’s the saying that “bad publicity is still publicity”. I truly wonder - is this your take on the famous quote?

New protocols and policies

Starting with the new verification protocol, indeed, the goal is to eliminate the “bot problem”, and with that, comes a long list of security checks. However, within the list, now lies the requirement of subscribing to X Premium - a condition that hasn’t been implemented in the past, let alone requiring there to be a payment.


Along with the new verification payment policy, you also chose to end the era of free APIs, which was a prominent epoch in my early developer days, if I may add. Understandably, this caused chaos for a lot of people and companies, as they relied on the Twitter API for their projects and businesses.


It almost seems as if new policies are being implemented every week, which in turn, causes users to feel restricted and lose interest in the platform. But then again, if not for changes, how are we to expect improvements? In fact, some improvements have been greatly optimistic for the platform, for example, the new Reporting Policy to reduce harmful content. (Read more: Twitter/X Blog)

Threads

Declining user retention

Despite the boom in user sign-ups, it’s reported that the number of active users has dropped by 60% to 70%. On the other hand, the average time spent daily on the app has fallen to just 2.5 minutes. (Source: Bloomberg Opinion)


This may just be due to the nature of a text-based social app, or just based on the natural progression of The Hype Cycle, but the question here is - Is this too big of a fall?


Here’s a great video by How They Make Money on this very topic

Meta’s hunger for rapid innovation

If we were to look back at Meta’s previous endeavors, we come across the Metaverse. The debate then was if the Metaverse was here to stay. A lot of critics were saying that Meta was too ahead of its time, advocating for something that wasn’t yet ready for this day and age. Regardless of the constant push for “trying to make fetch happen”, it’s reported that Meta’s AR/VR business lost $7.7 Billion in the past 6 months.


Would Threads face a similar future?

The Future

Here are some features users can expect (soon!) from the platforms:

  • The web experience for Threads
  • Job posting feature on Twitter/X


Based on the situation, it doesn’t seem like any of the two platforms intend to slow down, which brings us back to the question - Will this be the eXit of Twitter, or is Meta hanging on by a Thread?


Anyways, that’s all I had for today.


Looking forward to your email!