Don’t Join Threads—Make Instagram’s ‘Twitter Killer’ Join You

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donx27t join threads security gettyimages 1508798453.jpg
donx27t join threads security gettyimages 1508798453.jpg

As Meta’s Twitter competitor, Threads, started generating buzz ahead of yesterday’s launch, curious netizens spotted a placeholder listing for the app in Apple’s App Store. Like all iOS apps, the listing included details about the user data the app is designed to collect and track. And observers couldn’t help but notice that this brand-new app was already listing a whopping 14 categories of data that “may be collected and linked to your identity.” 

It might be a jarring reminder, but this is par for the course with Meta-owned apps, which the company monetizes by selling targeted ads and personalized marketing. Facebook and Instagram’s iOS apps list even more categories than Threads, the Messenger app lists about as many, and even the secure messaging app WhatsApp discloses nine categories of “Data Linked to You.” So for people fed up with Twitter’s rapidly deteriorating platform (and vibes), a Meta-owned alternative—with its predictability and relative stability—could even potentially appeal to those who are generally concerned about data privacy. 

Early data suggests as much: Threads, which is directly linked to users’ Instagram accounts, saw 10 million sign-ups in its first seven hours, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Ultimately, Meta’s pitch for Threads is simply that it’s the devil you know.

But one thing is different this time: Meta is dangling an opportunity to essentially be on Threads without signing up for the platform at all. The company announced yesterday that it is planning to make Threads interoperable with other, non-Meta social networks that support a decentralized protocol already used by WordPress and 2022’s decentralization poster child, Mastodon. This means that if Meta follows through, you’ll be able to see and interact with Threads content from other platforms and services that support the standard, which is known as ActivityPub.

Meta says that Threads will start supporting ActivityPub “soon,” a descriptor that doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence. The company has already spent years, for example, working on its longtime promise of default end-to-end encryption on Messenger. But incorporating decentralization into Threads, and specifically supporting ActivityPub, has reportedly been a core aspect of Meta’s vision for the app from the beginning. Meta has also already sketched out details of the plan in its supplemental privacy policy for Threads.

All of this means that if you’re sick 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 to you. Or hang out on Bluesky, which doesn’t support ActivityPub but is working on its own vision of a decentralized, portable social network.

“The fact that large platforms are adopting ActivityPub is not only validation of the movement towards decentralized social media, but a path forward for people locked into these platforms to switch to better providers. Which in turn, puts pressure on such platforms to provide better, less exploitative services,” Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko wrote in a blog post ahead of yesterday’s Threads launch.

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Abraham
Expert tech and gaming writer, blending computer science expertise