Starting today, Instagram Threads will begin the rollout of one of its most-requested features: the ability to use the service via the web, while logged in. At launch, Threads users will be able to post, view their feed and interact with posts from the desktop, the company says, but the experience won't be in complete parity with the Threads mobile app just yet.
For instance, web users won't be able to do certain things like edit their profile or send a thread over to Instagram DMs (direct messages). The latter was another recently introduced feature meant to help hook more Instagram users into trying Threads as the app's engagement trended downwards after a buzzy launch.
The Threads team is working to add more features to bring the web app on par with mobile over the weeks ahead, we're told.
Despite its shortcomings, being able to use Threads from the web is a potential game-changer for those still trying to make the shift from Twitter/X. From day one, web support has been among users' top requests, outside of a reverse chronological Following feed, which Threads delivered in July.
Image Credits: Instagram
Like many of Threads users' requests, the company promised web support was on the roadmap, but hadn't revealed when it was expected to arrive. However, there were hints the web version was nearing completion as, just last week, Instagram head Adam Mosseri teased "We're close on web," in response to a user request for a way to post from the desktop. Then, stoking the flames even further, The Wall Street Journal on Monday leaked that web support was arriving this week.
Prior to launch, the Instagram Threads team had been testing out an internal version of the web version for a couple of weeks, Mosseri had said. But for end users, you could only browse Threads on the web by going to an individual user's profile page, like threads.net/@techcrunch. And while you could view posts and replies, you couldn't join in the conversation. That made it difficult for desktop users to participate -- and likely drove a number of Threads early adopters back to Twitter.
That said, even a web version of Threads is not enough to make the product fully competitive with Twitter (which has since renamed itself X), because both the Threads app and website still lack post search capabilities. Today, you can only search for users -- not the content of their posts or even hashtags.
That makes the product less compelling for tracking news and trends, which is what made Twitter a global conversation hub in the first place. Twitter's timeline is not just a feed of updates, it's a way to see which topics are bubbling up across the platform and what news is breaking. Without search and trends, Threads is pleasant enough to scroll through -- especially with its lovely panoramic photos -- but it doesn't have the feel of a real-time news network, like Twitter/X still does.
That could change in time, of course, as post search is also on Threads' roadmap, Mosseri has said. The fact that the search button has a prominent place in Threads' desktop experience is a good sign -- but sadly, during tests, it led us to a dead end -- the page "isn't available" an error message read. Clearly, Threads is very much still a work in progress.
Image Credits: Instagram
Because the version of the Threads web app we gained access to ahead of launch was not a fully functional client, we were unable to test several of its features, including not only searching but also browsing our feeds. One thing that felt odd, though, was that posting a reply to a user's thread would pop up a box that only showed the original post and a place for you to type your reply. This took away from the feeling that you were joining in a larger conversation.
We did like that you could switch between a light and dark theme from the menu on the right, however.
Image Credits: Threads screenshot
Threads came out of the gate strong, breaking records to become the fastest app to top 100 million users within days of its arrival, thanks to the clever way it leveraged Instagram's social graph to onboard new users. The app has now topped 200 million installs, according to market intelligence firm data.ai.
Since then, user engagement has declined rapidly post-launch, with app intelligence firm Sensor Tower noting that Threads' daily active user count fell 82% from launch as of July 31, leading to just 8 million daily active users. The app had peaked at roughly 44 million daily users following its launch, indicating a large drop-off.
Still, reports of Threads' demise are too pessimistic and coming too soon. The app today is effectively a beta, as key features are still being built, as this web launch indicates. In fact, a regular joke on Threads is to ask if anyone is still here, which regularly elicits a stream of replies.
Eventually, Threads also plans to plug into the fediverse of decentralized social media, like Mastodon, which will change the nature of its relationship to the rest of the social web. It has already taken steps toward this commitment by allowing users to verify their Threads profile on Mastodon.
What's interesting, though, about Threads' user base, is that they're largely those who have fled -- or are perhaps trying to flee -- Twitter/X. Data.ai found that around 60% of Threads users also use Twitter/X, but only 14% of Twitter/X users also use Threads. That means Threads' ability to gain traction is currently precipitated on whether or not Twitter/X becomes too broken (or too toxic) to retain its own users.
Given that X owner Elon Musk just announced the end of the "block" feature on the app, it's possible there will be another exodus from X (an Xodus perhaps?) as users no longer feel safe to post there. Threads could potentially benefit from that -- well, at least when it adds search and trends and lists and everything else its users want.
Threads' web version will start rolling out to all users today. The full rollout should complete over the next few days, the company says.