My Thread hot takes (and why Bluesky might be toast)

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 3 min read

File this post under "strong beliefs loosely held" because I may be wrong here, but this is what I'm feeling now.

First, Threads is a massive hit. It looks like over 20 million people (update: 30 million) have joined the service already in the first 12 hours since launch. That's not Instagram users automatically migrated, that's real people (and many brands) installing the app and setting up an account. That's astounding uptake, even for a company like Meta with billions of users.

For some context, there are about 8 million total Mastodon users, and 2 million of them were active last month. This isn't to say anything bad about Mastodon, but it's had very strong growth over the last year, and they added a few hundred thousand users last weekend when Twitter shit the bed again, but 20 million new users in half a day is massive.

My general takeaway here is that people were hungry for a Twitter alternative, and meta struck at just the right time. Not to toot (pun not intended) my own horn, but as Twitter was making things worse again and I was seeing more normal people complaining about Twitter being borderline unusable, I posted this:

A mere 3 hours later Meta announced Threads was coming this week. There's a clear hunger out there for a new Twitter-like thing, and while Mastodon does the trick for people like me, there was a definite desire from many more people for something else. They timed this perfectly.

The fediverse

I was reading this post over the weekend and it helped me understand the disconnect between people like me who welcome more companies into the fediverse and those who are going to ban Threads from their Mastodon servers the moment they can.

Some people are more excited about ActivityPub as an open standard for the social web that allows people to follow across networks and to use whatever apps they want. I fall into this category, so I personally welcome more people to the ActivityPub fediverse, even if I don't approve of everyone. It's the same way I feel about RSS and the web in general, so of course this is how I feel about ActivityPub.

On the other hand, some people are more invested in Mastodon itself, and not the standard it's built on as much. Mastodon famously has a bit of a vibe, and you may or may not gel with that. Part of the general vibe of Mastodon is escaping the clutches of big tech, especially the likes of Meta and Twitter.

And here in lies the conflict: if you're more excited about an open standard for social media, then the biggest social company coming on board is exciting, but if you're more invested in escaping big tech, then you don't want them anywhere near your Mastodon profile.


We'll see how sticky Threads is beyond the first few days, but my hot take right now is that Bluesky is toast. I would say it still has a chance if Threads was 100% its own thing, but Threads' upcoming ActivityPub integration is going to help nerds feel better about using Mastodon (or other ActivityPub networks), and everyone else will either switch to Threads or stay on Twitter. I really don't know where Bluesky fits into this anymore.

Why ActivityPub at all?

Why is Threads bothering with ActivityPub at all? That's the million dollar question, and I don't really know the answer for sure. My suspicion is that it's much like RSS: it's generally a good thing to have, it allows for automations you don't have to build yourself, it makes you look good to an enthusiast audience, and it ultimately doesn't cost you much of anything since most people won't use it. In this case, it's also a hedge against other successful social services cropping up and Meta potentially being able to say "you can use Service X in Threads, look at how great we are". They've already called out being able to follow Mastodon accounts by name in interviews and FAQs, so that's not a theoretical, they're already doing that.

And let's not discount the value of good press. I think Threads is getting notably better press because of ActivityPub and it's what makes it feel more interesting than just another locked down Facebook project no one in my life would actually use. I'm convinced that the press around Threads has been notably better than it would have been otherwise due to the promised ActivityPub integration.

My plans

I have created an account on Threads, but I don't plan on using it much long term. Mastodon is the platform that resonates the most with me right now, so I plan on continuing to use that day to day.

For now, Threads is my way to keep up with some more popular accounts that never made the move to Mastodon, but as soon as that ActivityPub integration turns on, I hope to uninstall the app and just follow along in Ivory.