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The Killer App for Threads Is the Web

Threads, the text-based social network that Meta recently launched as part of Instagram, is finally on the web. Earlier this week, Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg shared that Threads for the web would be “rolling out over the next few days.” That rollout has begun; some users already have access to the web version.

It’s the next phase for the new social app, which launched in early July as a bare-bones text-threading app. Similar to X, the company formerly known as Twitter, people on Threads can post text updates, “heart” or like others’ posts, repost them, and reply in a Thread.

The app initially swelled in users—due in no small part to the fact that people could instantly transfer their Instagram presence over to Threads—with 100 million people signing up within the first five days. Even Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s lead on the project, was shocked: “I’m not sure I can wrap my mind around that fact. It’s insane; I can’t make sense of it,” he wrote in a Thread.

But Threads was—and is—a work in progress. Threads will supposedly be compatible with ActivityPub, an open social networking protocol, but that hasn’t happened yet. The app also doesn’t currently support direct messages, a popular feature on X. And Threads is not available in the European Union, due to the regulatory climate there. Until now it was only available on mobile, limiting the work of researchers who mine social media websites for useful data, or for elder millennials who hang out in web browsers all day at work (raises hand).

Threads arriving on the web, then, doesn’t make it a beacon of social media innovation. Rather, it makes it much more usable. Most users will still access it through mobile, if the way people currently access the internet is any indication. But the move to the web is the next step in Meta creating an application just sticky enough to kneecap X and to draw attention away from Bluesky, Mastodon, Spoutible, Post, or any other newish social app.

It’s also a way to juice its users again. After that spectacular initial sign-up period in July, Threads usage dropped off precipitously. New data from market intelligence firm Sensor Tower suggests that Threads daily active users are down more than 60 percent from its first-week average, though it’s now back on the upswing. Threads amassed 44 million daily active users during its launch peak, then saw usage drop to a low of seven million DAUs in late July. As of mid-August, the app has seen increases of 11 million DAUs, Sensor Tower analysts say. However, time spent on the app per daily active user has also fallen, the firm says.

“I joined Threads within 48 hours of it opening up, like everybody else, but I haven’t really used it and the reason is that I access most of my social media on my laptop,” says Ethan Zuckerman, a media scholar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an internet activist. “I’m reading, writing, and sharing articles. And I’m not necessarily typical, but I think there are a lot of people who are trying to counterbalance this moment of, ‘Twitter is falling apart—where’s the new conversation going to be?’” Cross-posting between multiple apps when most run on the web and one of them is mobile-only creates a barrier, however small, to regular usage.

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