What is 'Threads' and how does it work? The new social media app set to rival Twitter

A new app billed as a rival to Twitter has seen more than 10 million people sign up in its first few hours, David Harper reports

Facebook owner Meta has launched a new app called Threads, which appears to be a direct rival to Twitter.

Threads, which will be linked to Instagram, is available in app stores, after going live for users at midnight Thursday, UK time.

More than 10 million had joined worldwide within hours of its launch.

It is described as a “text-based conversation app… where communities come together”.

The new app is the latest chapter in the rivalry between Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, who bought Twitter in October - bringing in changes that have barely left the headlines since.

Musk tweeted about Meta as Threads launched, saying: “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram.”

Follow ITV News on Threads by clicking here.

Mr Musk has changed the site’s verification system Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

How does Threads work?

The new app is free, connected to Instagram, and features a similar interface to Twitter.

And just like its rival, people can post, re-post and share their messages across platforms.

A 'thread,' on social media, describes a series of inter-connected posts.

The terminology is particularly strongly associated with Twitter, where users will tend to pen a string of posts on a point in reply to their original tweet.

Threads has an aesthetic similar to Instagram's template for Twitter-style posts.

New Threads users try out the app in the hours after its launch. Credit: Threads

Instagram users will be able to keep the same username for their Threads app, and will be prompted to request to follow the same accounts they follow on Instagram.

Threads encourages people to 'connect over conversation,' and 'share your point of view' in text-based short posts.

Similarly to Twitter, Threads appears to have sharing options that appear to include a heart symbol used to 'favourite' posts, a reply function, a reshare button similar to the retweet function, and the ability to forward posts to private messages.

Promotional images also appeared to show a verified user's blue tick carrying over from Instagram to Threads.

Users of the new app will be able to use their Instagram login to get started and, like on the picture-sharing platform, can follow and connect with friends and influencers with similar interests.

In the UK, all users under 18 will be defaulted onto a private profile when they join.

Promotional images from Apple's App Store. Credit: Apple

Someone’s feed on the app includes threads from people they follow as well as recommended content from creators they have not yet heard of.

Threads posts can be shared on a user’s Instagram story and as a link on other platforms.

People can control who mentions them and who can reply to them on the new app, replies to threads containing specific words can be filtered out and other users can be unfollowed, blocked, restricted and reported.

Any accounts a user has blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on the new app and Instagram’s safety guidelines will be enforced on the new platform, Meta said.

The app is being run through Instagram. Credit: Apple

Who gets verified is a key point of contention across the social media sphere - and especially on Twitter, where Musk's leadership stripped users of blue ticks and monetised the service.

In recent days, Musk triggered unrest on Twitter again this week when he announced the platform would limit non-paying users to viewing 600 tweets a day, later increased 1,000.

The Twitter boss said the move was "to address extreme levels of data scraping and system manipulation."

Verified users – who have paid for a subscription to Twitter Blue or are considered “notable” – will be able to read up to 10,000 posts daily after initially being limited to 6,000.

The restrictions could result in users being locked out of Twitter for the day after scrolling through several hundred tweets.

The change brought a fresh round of outrage on Twitter, where users once again vowed to flee the app.

Some Twitter users made an exodus to alternative social media, notably Mastodon, earlier this year after Musk's takeover triggered rounds of lay-offs at Twitter, and a bonfire of the blue ticks.

The change to a paid-for verification system sparked criticism that Twitter, which is widely used by public figures and news outlets, would become vulnerable to widespread fakery.

It is not clear yet whether Threads would limit the number of posts users could view, or include paid subscription or verification add-ons.

According to promotional images, Threads also appears to feature privacy settings allowing users to set their posts to be viewed by the public, only by profiles they follow, or profiles they mention.

Can you deactivate a Threads account?

If Threads users want to delete their accounts, it appears they will have to wipe their Instagram account too.

In order to first get a Threads account you need to be have an Instagram account.

And as the accounts are interlinked, deleting your Threads account requires you to terminate your linked Instagram account, according to Meta's policy.

In a ‘Supplemental Privacy Policy,’ Meta explains: “You may deactivate your Threads profile at any time, but your Threads profile can only be deleted by deleting your Instagram account.”Meta elaborates on its policy page that a Threads profile is part of a user's Instagram account.

Clash of the tech titans

Last month the pair – two of the world’s most high-profile billionaires – agreed to take each other on in a cage fight in an exchange that went viral on social media.

The arrival of the new app comes after Twitter announced TweetDeck is to become the next part of the company to be limited to users who have paid for verified status.

The application, which allows users to manage multiple feeds and searches, will be only be accessible to verified users in 30 days, according to a tweet from Twitter Support on Monday evening.

A new version of TweetDeck has been made available with the tweet giving instructions to update.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...