Like Twitter from Meta Rival Threads started generating buzz ahead of yesterday’s launch, when curious netizens spotted a placeholder listing for the app in Apple’s App Store. Like all iOS apps, the list included details about the user data the app is designed to collect and track. And watchers couldn’t help but notice that this brand new app already lists 14 categories of data that “may be collected and linked to your identity.”
This may be a shocking reminder, but it goes hand in hand 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 related to you.” So, for people who are tired of Twitter’s rapidly deteriorating platform (and vibe), a Meta-owned alternative – with its predictability and relative stability – might even potentially appeal to those who are generally concerned about data privacy.
Early data suggests it: Threads, which ties directly to users’ Instagram accounts, had 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 around: Meta offers an opportunity to essentially be on 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 a decentralized protocol already used by WordPress and the 2022 decentralization poster, Mastodon. This means that if Meta tracks, you will be able to view and interact with Threads content from other platforms and services that support the standard, known as ActivityPub.
All of this means that if you’re fed up with Meta’s data-gobbling methods, or if you don’t already have an Instagram account and don’t want one, you actually have some leverage: don’t not join Threads. Use Mastodon or another ActivityPub platform until Threads comes to you. Or hanging out on Bluesky, who does not support ActivityPub but is working on its own vision of a decentralized and portable social network.
“Having major platforms adopt ActivityPub is not just a validation of the movement towards decentralized social media, but a path forward for people locked into these platforms to transition to better providers. Which, in turn, puts pressure on these platforms to provide better, less exploitable services,” Mastodon CEO Eugen Rochko wrote in a post. blog post before yesterday’s Threads launch.