Is Twitter hanging by a thread as Meta strikes?

A woman scrolls through Twitter on her mobile phone. While Threads shares similarities with Twitter, it is still in the early stages of development compared to the well-established platform. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Launched on Wednesday this past week by its parent company, Meta, as a text-based app to rival Twitter, Threads has got a largely positive reception. 

In the fast-paced realm of social media, where connections still reign supreme, netizens all over the globe have found a new text-based conversation app to express themselves—Threads.

Launched on Wednesday this past week by its parent company, Meta, as a text-based app to rival Twitter, Threads has got a largely positive reception.

Initial reports indicate that it has captured the attention and imagination of both the tech-savvy and the social media enthusiasts alike.

As the Ugandan online community embraces this novel platform, vibrant conversations and interactions are flourishing, weaving together a new tapestry of online expression.

Comparisons between Threads and Twitter have been irresistible.

For one, posts on Threads can span 500 characters maximum. That is nearly double the 280 characters most Twitter users (those not signed up for Twitter Blue) have at their disposal.

Videos of up to five minutes can be uploaded to Threads, and a post can be shared as a link on other platforms. 

“Just signed up on Threads and it feels like a breath of fresh air. It’s like Twitter’s cousin, but with a sleeker and more streamlined interface,” Sarah Nalwoga—a Ugandan user—posted, using the other characters to add thus: “I’m excited to see where this goes!” 

Her post quickly gained traction, with fellow Ugandans chiming in to share their experiences and opinions.

Within the first few hours of its launch, Threads boasted impressive numbers globally. Mark Zuckerberg, the Meta proprietor, said 30 million sign-ups had been notched in less than 24 hours after launching.

Thousands of Ugandans were part of the sign-ups, with a number of them making the most of the fact that they could link their new Threads accounts to their Instagram profiles. 

Who has signed up?
Just like on any other social media platform, it was evident that the popularity of Ugandan users on Threads could be gauged by their follower count.

As Ugandans embraced the app, a competition arose to accumulate the largest number of followers.
Without hesitation, popular personalities and brands swiftly joined the Threads bandwagon.

Each seemed to be striving to claim the prestigious title of having the largest following. Among the early adopters, renowned singer Joseph Mayanja, alias Jose Chameleon, has garnered nearly 11,000 followers, leading the pack in terms of popularity.

NTV Uganda, our sister television network, has also made its mark on the app from Meta that is closely modelled on Twitter.

By Friday evening, NTV Uganda had reached the 5,500 followers mark.

Notably, some top stars are still absent from the app, surprising those who expected their earlier participation.

Singer Bruno Kiggundu, widely known as Bruno K, wasted no time in joining Threads. He had accumulated nearly 3,000 followers as of Friday evening. He praises the app for its amalgamation of Instagram and Twitter features, resulting in a sleek and user-friendly interface.

Herbert Kityamuweesi, alias Crysto Panda, a media personality, also embraced Threads, hailing it as the lighter version of Twitter that he had longed to see.

“I believe Threads is designed to cater to Ugandans’ affinity for vibrant discussions and vibes, unlike Twitter, which tends to focus on more serious conversations,” he told Monitor.  

He, nevertheless, predicts that Twitter will eventually regain its prominence in fostering candid conversations, with those who prefer a more lighthearted approach settling for Threads.

While Crysto Panda seems to suggest that Twitter and Threads can co-exist, the former has moved to pull the rug from under the latter’s feet.

On Thursday, Twitter served Meta with a cease-and-desist that was anchored on the claim that the latter “had and continues to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information.” 

Opportunities galore
Recognising the potential of Threads, media outlets have seized the opportunity to engage with audiences in a more personalised manner.

NTV Uganda created an official account on the app, sharing exclusive news content and forging a closer connection with viewers. This mirrors what Uganda’s leading TV station has done on other platforms.

Joseph Tumwesigye, the station’s Online editor, acknowledges the app’s current low engagement. He, nevertheless, remains optimistic that it will grow rapidly, revealing that some users have discovered Ugandan content exclusively through NTV’s presence on Threads.

In addition to media outlets, businesses have also recognised the value of Threads as a means of engaging with audiences.

Swangz Avenue, a renowned Ugandan record label, has embraced the app as a platform to showcase their work and connect with their target audience, according to Robert Mugerwa, its digital marketer. He emphasises the importance of businesses being present on various platforms and believes that

Threads offers an audience they need to engage with as a company.
A mixed bag
Amidst Twitter’s exclusive features available only to paying users, Threads has emerged at a time when it is most needed by many Ugandans.

The app’s resemblance to Twitter is further underscored by the nature of conversations flowing on its streets, mirroring the day-to-day fabric of Ugandan society.

Early adopters of the app attest that discussions on Threads encompass a wide range of topics, including social issues, politics, entertainment, and lifestyle. Users freely express their opinions and engage in constructive debates, much like on Twitter.

“It is not uncommon to come across threads discussing politics, relationships, success stories, confessions, the latest Ugandan movies, fashion trends, or even sharing local recipes and culinary delights” Jude Saazi, an avid user of the app, notes.

For Ugandans, Threads is poised to become a vibrant melting pot of ideas, creativity, and shared experiences, fostering a stronger sense of community among its users.

As Threads continues to gain traction, social media commentators have shared their insights on the app’s reception in Uganda. 

Annah Tumusiime, a social media analyst, raises concerns about the potential risks associated with such a platform. She cautions against the formation of echo chambers and the reinforcement of existing biases.

An echo chamber occurs when like-minded people shut out divergent opinions. Consequently, Tumusiime underscores the importance of engaging with diverse perspectives to ensure healthy discourse thrives on the app.

Digital strategist Daniel Okello believes Threads has tapped into a moment in Uganda where a significant number of people have access to gadgets and the Internet.

This accessibility has allowed for a mass first-time trial of an app during its inception, resulting in its immediate local relevance.

“Looking ahead, Threads shows promising prospects in Uganda. With its rapid growth and enthusiastic user base, the app has the potential to become a central hub for Ugandan online culture,” notes Okello.
Threads vs Twitter
Regarding the possibility of Threads overtaking Twitter in terms of users, former president of Ugandans on Twitter (UoT), Fred Mwebya, popularly known as Uga-Man, agrees that Twitter has reasons to be concerned. 

He highlights Instagram’s already vast user base, which gives Threads commercial leverage as it avails the new app a handy, built-in user base.

Robert Mugerwa of Swangz Avenue, on the other hand, disagrees, suggesting that despite Elon Musk’s impact on Twitter, people still love the platform. He is adamant that Twitter is here to stay. 

In the battle of these platforms on ground, only time will reveal the true trajectory of Threads and its impact on the Ugandan social media landscape, as Ugandans continue to embrace and explore the possibilities it offers.
Navigating the app

Opening an account on Threads is most conveniently done by linking it to one’s Instagram profile.

This integration brings benefits, such as “follow suggestions” being based on the Instagram accounts already followed.

Additionally, users with verified Instagram accounts automatically gain verification status on Threads. 

While Threads shares similarities with Twitter, it is still in the early stages of development compared to the well-established platform.

Consequently, certain intriguing features like DMs, spaces, and a trends column are yet to be introduced on Threads.

One notable aspect of Threads is its distinct terminology. Actions commonly known as retweets on Twitter are now referred to as “reposts” on Threads.

This slight modification adds a touch of novelty and exclusivity to the app, further fuelling its popularity among users.

The developers behind Threads have ambitious plans to introduce additional features and enhancements, aiming to provide users with an even more immersive and engaging experience.

What is Threads all about?
Threads by Meta is a platform developed by Meta’s Instagram team that enables users to share short posts or updates of up to 500 characters.

It offers the option to include links, photos, or videos lasting up to five minutes. The app is seamlessly linked to users’ Instagram accounts, allowing for easy sharing of Threads posts to Instagram stories or as links on other platforms.

The feed on Threads consists of posts from accounts that users follow on both Instagram and Threads, ensuring a familiar experience.

Additionally, the app provides recommendations for undiscovered content, broadening users’ exposure to new accounts and posts.

Users also have the ability to customise their feed by filtering out specific words and controlling who can mention them.

Threads is available as a free app and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, catering to both iOS and Android users.

This accessibility ensures that users can join and engage with the Threads community regardless of their preferred mobile device.