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Instagram Threads prepares Trending Topics to fight X

In order to compete with X (formerly Twitter), Instagram’s Threads will launch Trends, a popular feature. A Threads user noticed the update in a screenshot posted accidentally by a Threads employee over the weekend, which showed a numbered list of trending topics and how many “threads” were discussing each item.

Willian Max suspected the post was meant for a Meta employee-only feed. Mashable and 9to5Mac originally reported the addition.

The image depicts current events like Drake’s No. 1 album, Billboard’s Latin Music Week, and Disney+’s Loki Season 2. Instagram has not responded to the reports.

Unlike on X, Threads’ main Trends list does not appear to be accompanied by topical trending lists like News, Sports, and Entertainment or a personalized “For You” list.

The addition would make Threads more competitive with X, as the Instagram-run app seeks to capitalize on X’s constant upheavals and changes to attract users. It’s not alone in trying to compete with X. Mastodon, Bluesky, Pebble, and Spill are also trying.

Threads has lost users since its July 5 launch, when it reached 100 million faster than any other app. But the Threads team has been rapidly adding new features to flesh out the app, including a chronological feed, a web app, easy profile switching, liked post viewing, and crucially, search. Search alone cannot make Threads an X competitor. Instead, search and trends make X a top network for breaking news and timely debates, something Threads has yet to master.

According to The Information, senior leadership at Threads is hesitant to embrace news due to its potential issues. Meta has had to deal with that over the years, as Facebook news divided its user base and allowed inflammatory and fake news to spread.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri responded to a Threads post last week that claimed the company is likely afraid of running news, saying, “We’re not anti-news, news is already on threads. We’re trying to avoid overpromising and underdelivering to a powerful group, a mistake we’ve made many times as a company.”

That may also explain why Threads didn’t tackle Trends first in its quest to clone Twitter/X.

According to The Washington Post, Threads has blocked search terms like “covid” and “long covid,” “vaccination,” “sex,” “nude,” “gore,” and “porn” from its search feature. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge that he wanted Threads to be “a more positive, friendly place for discussion,” unlike X, which “indexes very strongly on just being quite negative and critical.”

News tends to elicit strong opinions, so aiming for “good vibes only” may not help Threads become an X rival.

Trends may not convince users to switch to Threads, as other highly anticipated features, such as the web app launch, have failed to do so.

In its first month, Threads’ Android app usage dropped from 49.2 million on July 7 to 10.3 million, according to Similarweb. Another August 2023 data.ai estimate puts Threads’ global monthly active users at 135 million, far below X’s 666 million.

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