Twitter as Meta Rival Threads has been buzzing ahead of yesterday’s launch, with curious netizens spotting a placeholder listing for the app in the Apple App Store. Like all iOS apps, the list includes details about the user data the app is designed to collect and track. Observers couldn’t help but notice that the new app has listed as many as 14 categories of data that “may be collected and associated with your identity.”
It might be a harsh reminder, but it’s normal for an app owned by Meta, which the company monetizes by selling targeted ads and personalized marketing. The iOS apps of Facebook and Instagram list more categories than Threads, the Messenger apps list similarly, and even secure messaging app WhatsApp discloses nine categories of “data about you.” So for those tired of Twitter’s rapidly deteriorating platform (and vibe), Meta’s own alternative (with its predictability and relative stability) might even appeal to those with general concerns about data privacy.
Early numbers suggest as much: Threads, which is tied directly to users’ Instagram accounts, had 10 million sign-ups within the first seven hours of launch, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. Ultimately, Meta’s pitch for Threads is simply that it’s the devil you know.
But this time it’s a little different: Meta offers an opportunity to essentially get into Threads without signing up to the platform at all. The company announced yesterday that it plans to make Threads interoperable with other non-Meta social networks that support the decentralized protocol already used by WordPress and the 2022 paradigm of decentralization, Mastodon. This means that, if Meta complies, you will be able to view and interact with Threads content from other platforms and services (called ActivityPub) that support the standard.
All of this means that if you’re tired of Meta’s data-gobbling ways, or you don’t already have an Instagram account and don’t want to get one, you actually have some leverage: don’t join Threads. Use Mastodon or another ActivityPub platform until Threads comes up. Or hanging out on Bluesky, ActivityPub is not supported But is working on a vision of a decentralized, portable social network.
“The fact that ActivityPub is being adopted by large platforms not only demonstrates the growth of decentralized social media, but provides a path forward for those locked into these platforms to switch to better providers. This in turn brings pressure on them to provide better, less exploitative services,” Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko wrote in a blog post yesterday ahead of Threads’ launch.