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Meta’s Twitter Alternative Sees Declining Engagement

Meta’s Twitter Alternative Sees Declining Engagement

The social media platform Threads, owned by Facebook’s Meta and being promoted as a Twitter competitor, is losing more and more users, while its leadership says that new features are coming to remedy the situation.

Threads was launched in July and hit a peak of 100 million sign-ups initially. However, it has been on a free fall for two weeks, having lost 70 percent of its daily users, meaning only 13 million people are using it daily, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Towers, as cited by The Wall Street Journal.

In comparison, Twitter has a steady number of 200 million daily active users.

People on Threads spend an average of 4 minutes daily, while on Twitter, the number is 30 minutes per day.

After it launch, Threads users were spending an average time of 19 minutes on the platform per day, which has now fallen to 4 minutes.

Its parent company Meta is saying that users do not have as many features compared with other platforms, and this might be causing the fall in numbers.

Some new features could not become available recently due to technical problems.

More specifically, Threads does not have a trends search or a topic search which is very popular on Twitter. In Threads, users can only search for other profiles. Direct messages are also not there, and Threads uses an algorithm-based way to present the feed for each profile.

“That’s a big thing that’s on Twitter, that’s on TikTok, and YouTube, that you can jump on a topic, trend, and you can get loads of people following you and consuming your content,” Casper Lee, a YouTuber with 6 million subscribers, said to CNBC.

Furthermore, monetization, which attracts many content creators to other platforms, is not existent in Threads yet, as Meta says it will try to increase the number of users first before monetizing through advertisements in the videos or brand partnerships with content creators.

The official Threads account reposted a video of Meta’s Instagram unit head Adam Mosseri on Thursday, promising new features.

According to Meta, Threads was developed with Instagram as a basis, reusing its infrastructure.

Mosseri said that a new feature they are currently working on is a chronological order for the user’s feed, similar to Facebook and Instagram, as well as making posts editable.

“ICYMI: we’re working on getting you those new features,” the Threads post said.

Meta did not express worry about the fall in user engagement, saying a fall in engagement is natural for every new product after the initial excitement passes. It says it will first try to add the basic features and stabilize user engagement numbers, and the next step will be efforts for user growth.

Mosseri also said that the “focus right now is not engagement, which has been amazing, but getting past the initial peak and trough we see with every new product, and building new features, dialing in performance, and improving ranking.”

Meta’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg reiterated the message, saying in a Threads post on Monday that the company is focusing on stabilizing first before growing the community.

A person watches on a smartphone Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiling the META logo in Los Angeles on Oct. 28, 2021. (Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images)

Threads is promoted as a Twitter alternative but not so much for politics or hard news. Users have complained about the abundance of corporate profiles on the platform.

Threads reviewers have said that content creators on Threads are not posting as frequently as on their Twitter profiles, causing less user engagement.

Censorship

Just a day after its launch, concerns had already been raised about Threads’ restrictions on speech.

“When Mark Zuckerberg—the owner of Meta, Facebook, Threads, and WhatsApp—announced Threads, he said it would be a free and open platform,” said author and investigative reporter Michael Shellenberger, who was one of those who broke some of the “Twitter Files” installments that exposed the inner workings of Twitter’s censorship machine prior to the Musk takeover.

“Well, right away, there were users who showed that they had been censored,” Mr. Shellenberger added in an interview on Fox News in July.

Mr. Schellenberger gave as an example the apparent action taken against the new Threads account of known conservative commentator Rogan O’Hanley, who goes by the handle @DC-Draino on Twitter.

Mr. O’Hanley took to Twitter to say that he had just downloaded Threads and “posted once about wanting to expose Biden’s corrupt government and they’ve already flagged me for censorship.”

A screenshot shared by O’Hanley shows a warning label on his Threads profile for anyone that wants to follow him.

“Are you sure you want to follow dc_draino?” the Threads app asked users, per the screenshot. “This account has repeatedly posted false information that was reviewed by independent fact-checkers or went against our Community Guidelines,” it added.

Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.

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