Like Meta’s Twitter competitor, Threads, started generating buzz ahead of yesterday’s launch, curious netizens noticed a temporary listing for the app on Apple’s App Store. Like all iOS apps, the list included details about the user data the app is supposed to collect and track. And observers couldn’t help but notice that this brand new app already listed a whopping 14 categories of data that “may be collected and linked to your identity”.
It may be a shocking reminder, but this is par for the course with Meta-owned apps, which monetize the company by selling targeted ads and personalized marketing. Facebook and Instagram’s iOS apps contain even more categories than Threads, the Messenger app contains about the same number, and even the secure messaging app WhatsApp reveals nine categories of “Data Linked to You.” So for people tired of Twitter’s rapidly deteriorating platform (and vibes), an alternative from Meta – with its predictability and relative stability – may even appeal to those concerned about data privacy in general.
Early data suggests as much: Threads, which links directly to users’ Instagram accounts, saw 10 million logins in its first seven hours, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Ultimately, Meta’s pitch to Threads is simply that it’s the devil you know.
But one thing is different this time around: Meta dangles a chance to essentially be on Threads without signing up for 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 Mastodon, the decentralization poster child of 2022. This means that if Meta continues, you See and use Threads content from other platforms and services that support the standard, known as ActivityPub.
All this means that if you’ve had enough of Meta’s data-guzzling ways, or if you don’t already have an Instagram account and don’t want to have one, you actually have some leverage: don’t join Threads. Use Mastodon or any other ActivityPub platform until Threads comes to you. Or hang out on Bluesky, which one does not support ActivityPub but is working on its own vision of a decentralized, portable social network.
“The fact that major platforms are using ActivityPub is not only an endorsement of the move to decentralized social media, but a path forward for people stuck on these platforms to move to better providers. Which in turn puts pressure on such platforms to provide better, less exploitative services,” Eugen Rochko, CEO of Mastodon, wrote in a blog post ahead of Threads’ launch yesterday.