Threads is breaking people’s brains

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read
Threads is breaking people’s brains

Look, I’m happy that the new big social network is built on ActivityPub which means I’ll be able to follow along with the accounts I want in whatever ActivityPub-based apps I want. Maybe that will come with asterisks, but considering the Web 2.0 was nothing but completely siloed social apps, any progress here is a win in my book.

I’m not a huge fan of Meta on the whole, I’m just excited about the prospect of being able to follow some of the more popular accounts who are just never going to join Mastodon.

The “why don’t you like fun?” crowd

There are a number of people who are all in on Threads to the point they’re mocking Mastodon users for being so buttoned up about things like, I don’t know…privacy. Numerous people who famously…

  • Generally think Meta is scum
  • Hate ads
  • Hate apps that collect every piece of data that iOS allows them
  • Hate algorithmic feeds
  • Hate timelines that don’t sync or maintain their position
  • Hate random posts in their feeds from people they don’t follow
  • Hate non-native UIs
  • Hate when apps don’t have Mac and iPad versions

…have switched overnight to “Threads is so much fun, see you later, Mastodon and EU nerds.”

I get it, Threads is having a moment, and I’m checking it a few times a day as well. There’s a special energy about a new social network where everyone is rolling in and no one knows the rules. It’s all kinda weird and messy and chaotic and yes, it’s fun.

Threads will get more corporatized. Threads will get ads in the feed. Threads will collect a ton of data from you. People will figure out the algorithm and start optimizing their content for it. I don’t shame anyone who’s using Threads now and is enjoying it (I’m among you) but consider why all the things you hated before about Meta and Twitter are things that won’t bother you in Threads.

The “they lied about ActivityPub from the start” crowd

This is something I’ve seen more often on Mastodon than I expected, but there’s a serious paranoia that Threads isn’t actually going to implement ActivityPub. Some say it’s because Threads has done well at launch and no longer needs to bootstrap their network with Mastodon users, while others think it was a lie from the start and they never actually planned on doing ActivityPub, it was all a ruse to get some good will in the press.

Mastodon has about 2 million active monthly users. Instagram has about 1 billion. This idea that Meta was worried the network wouldn’t take off, and therefore they would add ActivityPub to let Mastodon users add content to the network is bonkers to me. If they wanted to artificially fill the service with content from the start, auto-posting Instagram content from their 1 billion monthly active users would be a much better, and much easier way to do that.

The other idea that it was all a ruse from the start is an idea that I think comes out of general paranoia about Meta, not any actual statements or behaviors from the company. I highly suggest listening to the latest episode of Hard Fork, which is an interview with Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri where they talk about a lot of things, including why they’re doing ActivityPub. I won’t rehash the whole argument he makes here, but the very broad strokes are:

  1. The market has changed and the next big social networks don’t need to be locked down like Facebook was. This was the last war and companies need new thinking for the next wave of networks.
  2. In an ActivityPub-everything future, it benefits Threads to have a UI people love that lets them connect with people on whatever hot new platforms crop up.
  3. Threads is fundamentally built on ActivityPub and then has its own special sauce on top (the algo, the UI…kinda like MagSafe is built on Qi charging with Apple’s special sauce on top) so it was there from the start and would be a pain to take out at this point.

Everybody just simmer down a bit. To the first group, I’d say have fun on the new and shiny, but let’s remember why we wanted something like Mastodon with an open API and great apps in the first place. And to the second group, it’s hard to convince someone their pet conspiracy theory is untrue, so I’ll just say that every indicator points to ActivityPub happening, so bring something more convincing if you still think it was all a lie.