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Threads update adds 3 useful features but doesn’t go far enough

Threads update adds 3 useful features but doesn’t go far enough

Threads – the Instagram spinoff Meta has launched to compete with Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) – has finally started to launch some much-requested features, but not quite in the way many of us would have liked.

When it launched back in July, Meta saw a significant amount of people flock to its fledgling social media platform. Fueled in part by the ease with which you can join Threads (you just need an Instagram account), and in part a general dislike of Elon Musk’s recent Twitter changes (including the site’s name), Threads hit 100 million users in just five days. 

This may not seem huge by some social media standards (Facebook has nearly 3 billion monthly active users) but Instagram took two and a half years to reach the same goal, TikTok took nine months, and ChatGPT took two months. Unfortunately, Meta’s Threads felt a little rushed and not quite ready to capitalize on its early success. Outside of being Musk-free, the ‘Twitter-killer’ didn’t have a lot else going for it, and feature-wise it felt decidedly subpar compared to its rival.

That’s starting to change, however, with Meta launching three Threads features (via a post from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg). The first is the ability for users to add custom alt-text for images and video – with alt-text being text-based descriptions of what appears in the video or image. When used correctly this accessibility tool can be used by people with visual impairments to better engage with the visual content you post. There’s also a new Mention button, which will make it easier to ‘mention’ (tag) another person’s Threads account in one of your posts. 

Lastly, Threads is taking a small step towards getting DMs of its own. Instead of having the feature within the app, you’ll have the ability to directly share a post with another user through your Instagram DMs. Direct messaging is one of Threads’ user’s most requested features, and while this certainly seems to be a step in the right direction, it’s a long way from being the feature we were hoping for.

Not what we were hoping for

Interestingly, none of these features were the three that Meta said were on the way to Threads in July; with those being DMs, improved search, and Trends & Topics.

A phone screen showing a Twitter cartoon made by Twitterific of a bird sitting in a house surrounded by flames

Twitter isn’t perfect, but Meta can learn a lot from it (Image credit: Twitterific)

Trends & Topics would presumably work like X’s Trending feature and – in conjunction with improved search capabilities – you’d likely be able to find posts and people based on content rather than only being able to look for specific usernames.

Meta will eventually want to carve out Threads as more than a Twitter clone, but it equally can’t ignore many of the features that make its rival so appealing – features that Threads is currently lacking. Because while people are seemingly desperate to leave the platform that Musk is ruining, they’ve yet to actually abandon ship (probably because nothing yet scratches that same itch).

We’ll have to wait and see how Threads continues to shape out over the coming months. It looks like the Zuckerberg vs Musk rivalry is more than digital too, with the two trading jibes over a real-life cage match, even if Meta’s CEO recently said he isn’t “holding my breath” for Musk to confirm the date.

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