What is Instagram Threads, and How Do You Use It?

Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Instagram Threads is a new text-based social network similar to Twitter. It was created by Meta, the parent company of Facebook.

Social media companies are rushing to capture people who are fleeing Twitter in the wake of Elon Musk’s many changes. Meta (Facebook) is hoping Threads—a new text-based branch of Instagram—is the answer, but is it just more of the same?

What is Threads by Instagram?

Instagram Threads is a social media app that revolves around writing short text posts of up to 500 characters. Posts can also include photos, short videos, and links. If that sounds a lot like Twitter, you would be correct—and that’s the goal.

Meta—the company that owns Facebook and Instagram—was originally planning to launch the app in late July 2023, but it was moved up to July 6th in 100 countries. The app is not available in the European Union due to strict privacy rules and the upcoming Digital Markets Act.

How to Use Instagram Threads

The Threads experience is most easily described as a mix between Instagram and Twitter. Some features have clearly been “inspired” by Twitter, and others have been ported over straight from Instagram. To get started, download the app from the App Store for iPhone or Google Play Store for Android.

You can write text posts up to 500 characters, string together multiple text posts, add photos and videos up to 5 minutes long, mention other users, and share links.

Threads have a number of familiar options as well. Just like on Instagram, you can tap the heart icon to “like” a post, reply to it, add it to your story, or post it on your feed. New for Threads is the ability to “Repost” and “Quote.” A “Repost” is essentially a retweet, and quoting allows you to share the post with your own caption attached to it.

Instagram Threads images.

The home feed is purely algorithmic—there’s no chronological option like there is on Twitter or Instagram. You are forced to see what Meta thinks you should see. At launch, that doesn’t include ads or promoted posts, but it certainly will in the future.

Beyond the home feed, there is also a search tab, activity tab (replies, mentions, etc), and a profile tab. It’s pretty standard fare for a modern social media app. That’s one of the reasons why many people are flocking to it—it’s simple and familiar.

Do I Need an Instagram Account to Use Threads?

Instagram Threads sign up.

You must log in to Threads with an Instagram account—it can’t be used without one. Threads may be a separate app, but it is tightly tied to Instagram. Your Instagram account and Threads account are essentially the same. All of your personal information can easily be synced over from Instagram during the sign-up process.

If you don’t have an Instagram account, you’ll need to create one to use Threads. Furthermore, if you usually sign in to Instagram with your Facebook account, you’ll need to decouple it by creating a specific password for Instagram in order to sign in to Threads.

Is Instagram Threads Decentralized?

Instagram Threads Fediverse.

As of July 2023, Threads is not decentralized, and Meta has not given a specific timeline for when it plans to do so.

During the Threads sign-up process, one of the introductory pages mentions “The Fediverse.” It explains that future versions of Threads will work with a “new type of social media network that allows people to follow and interact with each other on different platforms.” What’s that all about?

Meta is talking about “decentralization,” which is the ability to communicate with different social media apps without needing to have accounts on those specific platforms. It’s the same concept as email—you can email someone with a Yahoo address from Gmail, for example.

Mastodon is the most popular decentralized social network at the moment. It’s part of the Fediverse as well, which is a large ensemble of servers that share the same protocols. Meta says it plans to make Threads compatible with the Fediverse, which would mean you could follow a Threads account from Mastodon, and vice versa.

What Data Does Instagram Threads Collect?

Instagram Threads data.

As you might expect from the company behind Facebook, Threads collects quite a bit of data about you. According to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store listings, Threads collects and links the following data to your identity:

  • Health & Fitness
  • Purchases
  • Financial Info
  • Location
  • Contact Info
  • Contacts
  • User Content
  • Search History
  • Browsing History
  • Identifiers
  • Usage Data
  • Sensitive Info
  • Diagnostics
  • Photos & Videos
  • Audio
  • Calendar

It’s important to note that not all of these permissions are required. Long permission lists like this are sadly not uncommon. However, it’s not the case for every social networking app.

For example, here are the permissions lists for Threads vs. the aforementioned Mastodon. Normally we don’t post such lengthy screenshots, but you really get a sense of the difference between the two services when you see the screenshots side by side.

Threads vs Mastodon data collection.

As always, make sure you know what you’re getting into when signing up for a new app.

How to Delete Threads Account

Deactivate Instagram Threads.

Since Threads is so tightly connected to Instagram, you can’t delete your Threads account without also deleting your Instagram account. As of July 2023, once you sign up for Threads, you are stuck with it as long as you have an Instagram account.

It is possible to deactivate your Threads account, though. This hides your profile and content from other Threads and Instagram users. To do so, go to the profile tab > menu icon in top right > Account > Deactivate Profile.

Meta may change course and allow you to delete your Threads account separately in the future, but this is the best option for now. You’ll need to create a new Instagram account if you want to use Threads independently from your main account.

RELATED: How to Delete Your Instagram Account

Can I Use Instagram Threads on Desktop?

Instagram Threads is not available on the desktop—it is only available on iPhone and Android through the mobile apps. As of July 2023, the threads.net website simply has a QR code that directs you to download the app.

It took a while for Instagram to launch a desktop version—and even longer for it to get the ability to post photos and videos. Since Twitter is used on the desktop quite a bit, there will most likely be a Threads desktop experience in the future.

That’s the story on Instagram Threads. It’s Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to Twitter, but with Meta’s more likeable brand behind it. With over 2 billion monthly users already on Instagram, Threads has the potential to be a massive success for the company.

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