On Thursday last, Instagram's newest product, Threads launched. It is a new microblogging service set to rival Twitter which has been steadily hitting every branch while falling off the social media tree, while services like the Fediverse and Bluesky have sprouted leaves.
But as Instagram is owned and operated by Meta, you know that there are going to be privacy concerns with the platform. So many privacy concerns that the app is not launching in the EU*... for now.
* Noyb has blocked the article in Ireland due to Section 26A of the Data Protection Act 2018, so here is the Archived version.
The following image shows what information is gathered by Meta by using its new Threads app. A bit concerning. Why does it need 'Health & Fitness' data? Why does it need your 'Financial Info'? Why does it need to look at your 'Search History'?
Why does Meta require so much data, most of which is insignificant to them?
While this means that anyone within the EU27 cannot use this app, it doesn't mean that we will never interact with users there.
In Instagram's post on their own page about Threads, they stated that eventually, Threads will federate with ActivityPub.
But what is ActivityPub?
ActivityPub is a protocol (like SMS, Email, etc) used to send messages to and from users on different servers [Or instances. I will interchange between the two throughout. Eg, you can go from Mastodon ↔️ Mastodon, but you can also go from Mastodon ↔️ Calckey.
OK, but what is Mastodon?
Mastodon is a social media network created in 2016 by Eugen Rochko and designed to be an alternative to Twitter that can be hosted by essentially everyone.
It has nearly 8 million users on over 12,000 servers. And with the addition of ActivityPub, those 12,000+ servers and their users can interact with each other.
You mentioned Calckey, what is that?
That is another microblogging service that also runs on ActivityPub that has fancier features like being able to bold, italicise and animate text.
While the animations and fancy text won't work on other software like Mastodon, text, images and videos will still work normally.
So what does this have to do with Threads?
Eventually, (within 3 months according to some sources), Instagram will allow users to interact with Mastodon servers... and others. So you can have:
- Threads ↔️ Mastodon.
- Calckey ↔️ Threads
- PixelFed ↔️ Threads (PixelFed being a direct Instagram alternative)
Now, given the privacy concerns, some (read: a lot) instances are going to be blocking Meta's new project from being federated, meaning that you won't be able to interact with Threads users regardless of what Meta does.
We don't know what Meta's long-term intentions are as of yet, but hopefully, we don't have another case of embrace, extend and extinguish like what we have seen in the past with Google and XMPP.
So while you cannot join Threads today, you can join Mastodon (or one of its many alternatives).
And for comparison, here is Mastodon's, Ivory's (A 3rd party Mastodon app made by the creators of Tweetbot) and Mona's app privacy page:
Due to the surge of users signing up to Mastodon servers since November 2022, specific servers may not be accepting signups and others may have 'Manual verification' to ensure that you are not a bot.
- Closer to your home (geographically) - Eg. I am signed up to Mastodon.ie as I live in Ireland.
- A topic that you are interested in - Blahaj.zone - If you like the IKEA BLÅHAJ 😉, tech.lgbt if you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and also into technology or metalhead.club if you are into heavy metal music.
- or a cool funny domain name like: https://dolphin.town/ where you can only post 'e'
There are many servers out there with new ones appearing all the time and if you are technically inclined, you also start your own server!
While Meta celebrates the launch of their new product, they will need to sit down and address some major issues which would need to be done before they launch support of ActivityPub.
- Implement features that already exist within other Fediverse software.
We are talking about editing, quote posting, lists, groups, content warnings, polls, DM's and specific interactions with other servers (copy links, share, etc).
- Become GDPR Compliant.
If Meta is serious about this new product, rivalling Twitter and integrating itself with ActivityPub services across Europe, it would need to become GDPR compliant. How they do this, I don't know. I am not a legal expert and don't know the full ins and outs of GDPR.
- Commit to being open.
This is going to be more difficult for them from a business perspective. They obviously will want to set themselves apart, but the Fediverse thrives on the protocol and (most) platforms being open.
Meta needs to ensure that it can keep itself 'open' to the rest of the world and not force people that are on the Fediverse to create an Instagram account to interact with a Threads post or view specific material.
- Work with existing servers and server admins.
This should be a no-brainer. Meta is running this service for the first time, and if they plan to integrate alongside the rest of the Fediverse, they need to comply with things that have become the norm with the Fediverse.
- Content Warnings.
- AltText on images/videos.
- Ability to block users and/or instances on a user level
Actually, on that last one, they are going to learn quickly what types of servers are out there. There are some problematic ones and if they are going to be federated to those problematic servers, then their users are going to be in for a rough time which may come back to bite them.
If you are in the EU and a social media marketer and you need to be on Threads today, do yourself a favour, join a server that is on the Fediverse (Like Mastodon, Calckey or similar) and be ready for when Threads DOES federate with the rest of the Fediverse regardless if they are able to launch into Europe or not.
Me, since I don't have access to Threads, I am not going to sweat it too much. Mastodon has been my social media 'home' full-time since November 2022 (I had been using it on and off over the last few years) and I am not going to be looking back.
I am even slowly working on transitioning my posts from Instagram over to my Pixelfed, so I can use that in the future.