Meta’s Threads Still Lags Behind Musk’s X, but Platform Is Growing Again

Meta’s Threads Still Lags Behind Musk’s X, but Platform Is Growing Again
Meta’s Threads Still Lags Behind Musk’s X, but Platform Is Growing Again

Summary

Threads power users say the atmosphere has improved even as they await key features.

Isaiah Samad was looking for an alternative to Twitter earlier this year, growing tired of everything from “hot takes" and “rage bait" that he felt had grown too common on the site.

After signing up for Meta Platforms’ Threads when it launched in July, he noted a more welcoming, positive atmosphere on the app and eventually deactivated his account on X, previously known as Twitter.

Samad is one of about 10 million daily active users globally, including many who have flocked to Threads as an alternative to Elon Musk’s X, in search of what they describe as civil discourse. Many power users of the emerging service cited that as one of the platform’s central virtues, even as they continue to want new features such as trending topics and hashtags.

Such demands for more immediacy on Threads are at the heart of the challenge Meta faces as its new microblogging product begins to grow again after a slowdown following its launch, when more than 100 million users signed up in less than a week. While Musk has called himself a free-speech absolutist and eschewed content moderation, Threads has taken steps to manage some discussions carefully, such as preventing searches for Covid-19.

As X has frustrated some users with rapidly changing policies, features and rollbacks, Threads has seen new engagement from frequent users hungry for a newsy alternative, especially during important news moments such as the current one with the Israel-Hamas war. Usage on Threads increased 13% during the week of Oct. 9 compared with the previous three-week average, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. X saw an approximate 3% increase that week compared with the prior three-week average.

Threads’ arrival has reshaped the microblogging market. X’s daily active users have fallen approximately 9% since July. Last September, Twitter held more than 99.9% of the microblogging monthly user-market share, according to global monthly active user estimates from Sensor Tower. As of this September, X’s market share dropped to less than 82% while Threads has gained nearly 18% of the market.

Even so, Threads remains far behind X, both in terms of key features and users. Threads has almost one-sixth of X’s monthly U.S. users but is much further behind when it comes to daily users. Threads’ U.S. daily user base of 1.4 million, a figure closely followed by advertisers, is still far behind X’s 29 million, according to Sensor Tower.

While many Threads users continue to use X, some say they get more responses and interactions with their posts on Threads, even with a smaller follower count.

Kevin Kruse, a Princeton University history professor who has more than 476,000 followers on X, said last week on the platform that his posts on the new service got more engagement with only 44,500 followers. He also said the same is true of Bluesky, another microblogging service.

Meta executives have said they don’t intend to amplify news on the site but are working on features such as trending topics and hashtags, which could be released soon. From the outset, Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and others have focused on creating a civil environment.

“There was an opportunity to build something that was a bit friendlier in its tone," Meta Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said in an interview last week at The Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference. He said the company wanted to engage people on issues that were less about hard news and geopolitics, and more about sports, science or other areas such as fitness or food.

But some Threads users say that more news is exactly what they want to see.

Romit Mehta, 49, of Cupertino, Calif., said he used to call Twitter his newspaper. He left it after Musk’s acquisition of the company in October 2022 because he felt that the app was becoming too negative. He has now become a daily Threads user, but wants to see more news on the app.

“That is where I hope they take it soon because that will effectively make it the newspaper that Twitter used to be," Mehta said.

Adam Mosseri, Meta’s head of Instagram, said after the launch of Threads in July that politics and hard news weren’t “worth the scrutiny, negativity (let’s be honest), or integrity risks that come along with them." He has more recently walked that statement back.

“We’re not anti-news, news is already on Threads," Mosseri posted on Threads in October. “We’re simply trying to avoid overpromising and under-delivering to an incredibly powerful group, which is a mistake we’ve made as a company many times in the past."

Kathy Yost, a 47-year-old in Maryland who joined Threads months ago, said she has seen an uptick in usage since the start of the war.

“When we have these big events, people need an outlet to talk about them," she said. Yost has cultivated a following of almost 6,000 users by posting about topics such as the labor movement, the LGBT community and the 2024 U.S. election.

Jitpal Kocher also finds himself opening the app multiple times a day to see what people in the tech and startup community are posting. While he enjoys Threads, Kocher, 37, says he notices that there aren’t as many people on the platform.

“It doesn’t have that level of content yet," Kocher said, noting some content gaps such as sports. “If you refresh it at 6 a.m. on a Sunday, there’s not going to be a ton of new stuff."

Users say they like how Mosseri, Zuckerberg and other Meta employees interact with them on the app and take in feedback. Others said the seemingly positive atmosphere on Threads reminds them of the early days of Twitter.

“One of the best things to me is everyone just seems to be really nice," Kocher said, “like we’re all posting together."

Write to Salvador Rodriguez at salvador.rodriguez@wsj.com and Meghan Bobrowsky at meghan.bobrowsky@wsj.com

Meta’s Threads Still Lags Behind Musk’s X, but Platform Is Growing Again
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Meta’s Threads Still Lags Behind Musk’s X, but Platform Is Growing Again
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