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What is Instagram Threads and how does it work?

There’s never been much love lost between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, with the two multi-billionaires having called each other out for a cage fight in the past. And now they’re not just fighting each other; they’re fighting over your social media activity, too.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company Meta (formerly Facebook, Inc.) released a social networking app called Threads that’s similar in many ways to the Twitter/X app that’s currently being reinvented by rival billionaire, Elon Musk. What is Instagram Threads and is it any good? Here’s all you need to know.

What is Threads?

Threads is an app from Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. It was designed and built by the Instagram team and is described as an app for sharing text updates and joining public conversations.


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Sound familiar? Well, if you’re thinking that it sounds a lot like Twitter (or X to give it its ridiculous actual name) you’d be right. It seems that Meta spotted a potential gap in the market for a microblogging social network that isn’t beset by some of the issues currently facing X as Elon Musk tries to claw back some of the billions he spent buying the company in the first place. A similar app called Threads was announced in all the way back in 2021 but then everything went quiet. Clearing smelling blood coming from X, Threads was finally launched in July 2023.

What does Threads offer?

The Threads app allows you to post messages of up to 500 characters in length, which is significantly higher than the 280 characters currently offered by Twitter (unless you’re signed up to Twitter Blue) and the same as the default 500 characters offered by Mastodon. Your posts can include photos, videos up to five minutes long, audio, and web links.

Screenshots of creating a new thread and adding photos to a post on Threads

Source: Meta

How does Threads work?

Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can sign in with your existing Instagram account. Your username will carry over to your Threads account, as will your verification if you have it, and you can choose to customise your profile for your new Threads account.

Screenshots of account search, reposting, and a repost in a feed on Threads

Source: Meta

You can then choose to automatically follow the same accounts that you already follow on Instagram, as well as finding and adding new accounts to follow from within the Threads app. The default feed is a mix of posts from people you follow and recommended content, but you can also select the Following feed which only shows posts from people you follow, listed in chronological order.

How to post on Threads

Creating your own thread on Threads is quick and easy to do, and pretty intuitive if you’ve used other microblogging sites before.

  1. Open Threads.
  2. Tap the Post icon in the middle of the menu bar at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Write out your post, up to 500 characters. If you go over the limit, you won’t be able to post until you’ve got your post down to 500 characters or less.
  4. If you need more characters, tap Add to Thread beneath your post. This will create another post in your thread where you can add a further 500 characters. You can repeat this multiple times if needed.
  5. Add photos or videos by tapping the Media icon just beneath your post.
  6. You can also record an audio message by tapping the Microphone icon.
  7. When you’re happy with your thread, tap the Post button.
  8. Your thread is posted.

How to interact with posts on Threads

interacting with a post on threads

As well as posting your own content, you can interact with other posts on Threads, just like you can with most other similar social media apps.

  1. Find a post that you want to interact with.
  2. To Like the post, click the Heart underneath the post.
  3. To reply to the post, click the Speech Bubble underneath the post.
  4. To retweet or quote tweet (for want of better terms) tap the Arrows underneath the post.
  5. To share a post, click the Paper Aeroplane underneath the post.

Is anyone I’ve heard of on Threads?

When Threads first launched, it quickly hit more than 100 million users. Active daily user numbers have dropped somewhat since then, but there are still plenty of big accounts to follow. Some early adopters included Shakira, F1 driver Lando Norris, NBA player Seth Curry, soccer star Kingsley Coman, and everyone’s favorite sweary chef, Gordon Ramsay. You can now follow even bigger names such as Hugh Jackman, Selena Gomez, Barack Obama, Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and of course, Kim Kardashian.

What is different about Threads?

There are a couple of things that are a little different about Threads when compared to the X, which is still the most popular microblogging site out there. The first is that there are no hashtags. It means that currently, you can’t categorize your posts using hashtags or follow trending topics based on their hashtags. It remains to be seen if Threads will add hashtags or something similar in a future update.

The other big difference is that there are supposedly some big plans for Threads in the pipeline. Although it isn’t the case at present, the aim is to make Threads compatible with ActivityPub. This is a decentralized social networking protocol that allows social networking apps to interconnect with other apps that use the same protocol.

The goal is to allow Threads users to interact with accounts on different social media platforms. So, for example, someone on Mastodon could request to follow your Threads account, and you could approve or deny that request directly from within Threads. You could then follow their Mastodon posts in your Threads feed, without ever creating a Mastodon account.

The plans for AcitivyPub compatibility were announced when Threads initially launched. But then things went a little quiet, with Instagram boss Adam Mosseri indicating to The Verge that AcitvityPub was still ‘a long while out’. However, in September, Instagram’s Senior Engineering Manager Jesse Chen wrote a blog post indicating that making Threads part of the fediverse of social networks via ActivityPub is still very much a priority. We will wait to see what happens.

Has Threads introduced any updates?

When Threads first launched, there were a couple of major gripes. First of all, the only feed available was a mix of posts from accounts that you follow alongside suggested posts from accounts that you don’t follow. Users were rightly frustrated that they had to wade through posts from people they had no interest in to the posts from people they actually followed. Thankfully, this was addressed in an update. You can choose between the default feed and a Following feed, as mentioned above. This feed only shows you posts from accounts that you follow without any suggested posts.

Another common gripe was that whilst you could search for accounts to follow, there was no way to find posts using a keyword search. However, it’s now possible to search by keyword on Threads, just like you can on X. It’s refreshing that changes are being made that actually improve the app. Take note, Elon.


How to use search on Threads

Threads finally adds the much-requested keyword search.

Another issue for many users who jumped on the bandwagon early and now want to get off is that it’s currently not possible to delete your Threads account without deleting your Instagram account, too, since the accounts are linked. It is possible to temporarily deactivate your Threads profile, but your data isn’t deleted, it’s just not visible to ther users. If you reactivate your account, all your posts and interactions will still be there. However, plans are in the pipeline to let you delete your Threads account without deleting your Instagram account.

Is Threads safe?

Threads offers many of the features that are built into Instagram to help you filter out the content that you’d rather not see. You can control who can reply to you or mention you in a post, and you can add a word filter so that any posts containing those words don’t appear in your feed or in your replies. Any accounts you’ve blocked on Instagram are automatically blocked on Threads too, and you can unfollow, restrict, or block accounts from directly within Threads.

Screenshots of the hidden words feature on Threads showing the current filtered words and controls over who can mention you in posts

Source: Meta

Threads will also enforce Instagram’s Community Guidelines, which include only allowing posts that are appropriate for a diverse audience and not allowing posts that contain hate speech or are intended to degrade or shame private individuals. This is another way that Threads is aiming to distance itself from some of its rivals; Meta is keen to point out that more than $16 billion has been invested in the teams and tech required to enforce the guidelines on Instagram, and those same resources will be used to keep Threads a place for ‘positive and productive conversations.’

Does Threads respect privacy?

It’s an app owned by Meta, so make of that what you will. However, there does seem to be a focus on privacy. Anyone under 18, or under 16 in some countries, is automatically set up with a private profile when they first sign in. They can then approve users on Threads who want to follow them, just like you can on Instagram. And many of the same privacy features that appear on Instagram, such as the ability to block or report other users, are included in Threads.

How do you get Threads?

Threads was rolled out in more than 100 countries around the world in July 2023. When it first launched, Threads wasn’t availabe in EU countries (although it was available in the UK) due to the EU’s strict data privacy laws. However, as of December 2023, Threads is now available in EU countries, too.


Meta’s Threads is finally available in the EU starting today

It arrives more than five months after debuting in the US and other parts of the world.

Threads is currently available for iOS and Android and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. You can also now use Threads on desktop, which wasn’t the case when the app first launched.

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