Threads Launches Desktop Version of their App… Last Throw of the Dice or Shrewd Business Decision?

Social media | 30th Aug

Threads’ user engagement has tanked. By as much as 79%, according to a recent article published by The Drum. This isn’t exactly good news for Mark Zuckerberg and co.

Few could have predicted such a massive decline. And it all started so promisingly. Launched on July 5th, Threads was billed as the “Twitter killer.” A moniker that it lived up to, at least initially. Reaching a phenomenal 30 million downloads in just 16 hours, obliterating the initial popularity of ChatGPT and TikTok.

Fast forward six weeks, and Threads has been unable to build on their initial success. Its influence appears to be waning. According to analytics, as of August 7th, Threads is now operating with 576,000 daily active users.

On Tuesday, August 22, Mark Zuckerberg announced the release of a desktop version of Threads. The question now looms: will this save the beleaguered platform, or will Threads be resigned to the annals of history as just another expensive digital flop?

Threads desktop at a glance

It’s hard to argue that Threads desktop is little more than a glorified way to view different profiles, complete with a handful of features. This can be construed as an attempt to bolster the threadbare app post-launch; Threads users couldn’t even like or reshare a post on the app, despite there being a button to do so.

The new desktop interface looks a whole lot like the app, just with a few minor differences: the navigation icons are at the top of the page, and there’s a button in the bottom-left corner to switch between the For You and Following feeds.

It seems like Threads is adopting a “scaling” strategy. Basically, they’re launching the desktop version and building up the platform’s features over the coming weeks and months. However, this is a risky strategy. Users aren’t able to edit their profile or send a post to Instagram DMs from the desktop. In fact, you can’t even post, or, to use language that’s entered the global lexicon, tweet.

To be fair, the Threads team is promising things will get better. And they’re promising to improve the user experience quickly. But in an environment as unforgiving as social media, is this enough to appease and attract the kind of user base that Mark Zuckerberg expected, especially when Twitter, now X, has an iron grip on the microblogging market?

A streamlined approach might just work.

Missing features might raise the ire of some users, but there’s a flip side to the coin. A busy, cluttered interface isn’t always the best way to engage everyone. Neither has a strictly mobile app. Commercial users might just prefer the desktop version of Threads. You’re not that likely to have social media executives posting, tweeting, and sharing content from their phones in a busy office environment. If nothing else, jumping from desktop to smartphone just to post, tweet, or share content can become a bit annoying!

Then there’s the fact that people prefer a company, a product, or a service that does a few things really well as opposed to one that has an expansive range of choices, none of which are exactly exemplary.

If Threads’ plan is to scale functionality while keeping a clean aesthetic as their platform evolves, this may well attract, engage, and appease loyalists and new users alike, especially when they’ve been vocal that a desktop version of the platform is what they want since launch.

There will be more features to come.

The past month has seen Threads roll out several new features as an attempt to compete with X, the most notable of these being an evolution of the Following feed and not just the algorithmic timeline (where X decides what content is most relevant to users). The feed, which displays account posts in reverse chronological order, gives users a different experience, one that’s tailored to them, and is the bare minimum of what users expect from Threads.

Similarly, reposts (Threads’ equivalent to retweets) have also recently been added to the Following feed and were based on user feedback. This is yet another step Threads is taking to mimic X’s user experience. But, arguably, the biggest feature is yet to come, hashtags.

Long considered the cornerstone of microblogging, Threads has announced plans to roll out hashtags, allowing users to tag posts with relevant key phrases, improving their searchability and users’ influence. But there’s more.

In the not-so-distant future, expect Threads to launch a translation feature. This will give users the ability to translate posts from one language to another and will be powered by the same AI algorithm Instagram uses. First announced at the end of July 2023, the translation icon will reside at the bottom of a post alongside the other icons for post/repost, quote, and share.

There are also rumblings that Threads will roll out an improved search function in the coming months that allows users to search for not only accounts but also specific posts. A trending section called “on the list” will also likely appear in the coming weeks and months.

All these functions will be present on both the app and desktop version of the app, giving users the ability to switch between platforms at will.

A beacon of hope for users clamouring for enhanced functionality

Threads’ arrival on desktop doesn’t exactly revolutionise Threads. But it does make the platform more broadly accessible for users. Will we see people migrate from mobile to desktop when accessing the platform? It is unlikely, after all, how many people use Tik Tok or WhatsApp, but it is another piece in the functionality puzzle.

Does the move make Threads a beacon of social media innovation? Not if the way people currently access social media is anything to go by—how many people do you know who prefer a desktop version of a social media app? But it does signal Threads’ intent to rival X’s functionality.

It’s also a new way to invigorate Threads’ floundering user base. Threads’ astounding launch was quickly followed by an equally astounding drop-off. But if Threads is able to claw back users by improving their service, everyone who downloaded the app, only to open it for a few seconds every once in a while, may just find themselves opening and staying on Threads for minutes or hours at a time.

There’s also muted confidence in the affects a desktop version of Threads will have. Even Mark Zuckerberg seems unsure of Threads’ future, recently stating that he “didn’t know” if Threads desktop will make online experiences more exciting and dynamic but that it will give him a “better sense” of the question now that there’s a web interface to study.

Looking at Threads’ arch rival, X, it’s apparent that the platform is able to strike a balance between feeling simultaneously intimate and giving users the chance to create a dialogue within small communities while also giving them the opportunity to share and discuss whatever they want on an expansive platform.

In it’s current state Threads, even with a desktop option, simply cannot compete with X.

Last throw of the dice or shrewd business decision?

In the end, it’s clear that Threads desktop is neither. The platform can perhaps best be described as a work-in-progress. There are plans to roll out a whole host of updates, including hashtags and a translation function, in the near future, while the decision to migrate the platform to desktop is nothing more than a basic service evolution. But that’s probably not enough to turn the fledgling platform’s fortunes around.

However, what’s clear is that Threads is keen to rival X and is not hitting the brakes on all its plans. Whether this is enough to keep users—and by extension, advertisers—engaged enough to remain loyal is another question altogether.

One thing’s for sure, though: Threads has a long road ahead if it is to become a true rival to X’s crown as the undisputed king of microblogging.


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