Meta’s X rival, Instagram Threads, is copying a couple more X features today with the launch of support for polls and GIFs. The update comes in rapid succession to other releases for the new app, which have included support for a web version, a (free) edit button, profile switching, likes, full-text search, a chronological feed, voice posts, and more. Given the rapid adoption, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested on a call with investors on Wednesday that Threads could be Meta’s next billion-user app.
Those projections are somewhat optimistic, given that Threads is now at just under 100 million monthly active users, as Zuckerberg also said. And they don’t take into account the surprising “stickiness” factor of X, which has managed to retain its U.S. power users and increased the time spent by its daily active users, according to at least one report, even though X has declined on other metrics, like overall daily active usage, monthly usage, and website traffic, as other research firms have found.
As Threads looks to find more ways to hook and engage users, it’s racing to add features that Twitter users have come to expect.
Polls, in particular, have been a popular way to boost engagement on Twitter/X as they allow users who aren’t heavy posters to weigh in on a topic and have their voice heard. Those who post polls can attract new followers and take the pulse of a wide group of people without having to run a more formal survey. They can also be used for fun, like asking what to eat for dinner or which movie to see, among other personal questions. X owner Elon Musk, in fact, has regularly used polls to drive decisions about the company’s direction following the acquisition, like whether he should step down as the head of the company, declare amnesty for banned accounts, or bring back Vine, the short video platform Twitter killed off back in 2016.
On Threads, polls will run for 24 hours and you can control who can respond to the poll, the same way you can control who can reply to a post.
GIFs, meanwhile, remain of interest to online users as a whole, though younger generations sometimes now see them as “cringe.” Meta itself even acquired the GIF search engine Giphy for $400 million in 2020, but was forced to divest of it due to an antitrust order from the U.K.’s competition authority. Shutterstock bought the site in a deal that valued the company at just $53 million. Giphy, not surprisingly, powers the new GIFs option on Threads.
While polls and GIFs aren’t the most significant features to add to Threads’ Twitter clone, they’re features that put the app more on par with X and ahead of some other would-be X rivals like the startup Bluesky, which does not yet support GIFs. (Though some of its third-party clients do.) The features appear to be available on the Threads mobile app at present, but not yet on the web.
There’s much more Threads would have to do to make itself more of an X competitor, of course, beyond just cloning its features — which now include audio and video calls, as of today. X remains a real-time news source and place to discover trends, both of which are a big draw. While Instagram head Adam Mosseri has said Threads would not amplify news on the platform, in its battle with X, Threads was spotted developing a Trending Topics feature that would make it feel more Twitter-like. It’s unclear when or if that feature will launch publicly.
Update, 7 pm et Later in the day, Instagram head Adam Mosseri posted that Threads would also begin tests of view counts and pinning posts or replies to your profile — also X features. He wrote, “View counts are interesting as I think if we were shipping Instagram, or Facebook, today, we would probably have them. They give people a better sense of their reach, and generally more feedback is a good thing.”
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