Threads vis ActivityPub

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I spent Saturday revisiting the Instagram API to see what it would take to integrate with EveryPost, hoping that understanding one might help get a jump on a integrating the other.1

The experience left me believing that Threads needs interoperability to even make sense. Threads needs something like ActivityPub to even matter.

The Paradox of Closed Platforms

Let’s look at Instagram. By Facebook’s measure, it has been a resounding success throughout its existence. It was successful when they bought it, and remains successful.

Yet over the past few years, Instagram became a hot mess of a consumer product and the developer experience has not fared better. Unless you are a business or creator making money off of Instagram, it’s not worth the time or effort to do much with the Instagram API.

The past 48 hours show that even if Threads were to exist as a closed platform, it would be successful and generate enough advertising revenue to justify its existence.

More strategically though, what made sense for Facebook circa 2015 (having tight control over how people access and extend the platform) may not make sense here. For a company with the size and scale of Meta circa 2023 there are few barriers to Facebook2 to operate save for government regulation.

Threads as a Hedge or a Bridge

Maybe it’s time they changed the game.

Through interoperability, Threads could become a force multiplier for Facebook, Instagram, and Meta’s broader ambitions to connect the rest of the Facebook-hating world. But Meta won’t get that solely by focusing on advertising.3

Separately, I keep asking myself what is the problem Meta is trying to solve? What is the big question and why (months ago) did Mark Zuckerberg bother to green light Threads? To what end?

The Metaverse Connection

Given the 10 billion dollar excursion into building the Metaverse, one has to think this dream hasn’t entirely died– there are just different means which have yet to be explored. Threads could be that once-in-a-decade opportunity to anchor Meta to its next growth trajectory.

By leveraging open standards and opening the door to interoperability, Threads could funnel users (and their content) into Meta’s closed ecosystem while blurring the boundaries between its platforms and the broader web (or what the web will become if the mobile-first era starts to fade.

  1. It didn’t go well. Unless one is running a business through Instagram, getting even simple metadata from an Instagram post is as onerous as I remember ↩︎

  2. Twitter was never big enough to be a real threat to Facebook, but at its height, Twitter to have been acquired by a larger player could have been just such a threat. That ship has sailed and now there’s no way in which Twitter ever becomes Twitter again. ↩︎

  3. It remains to be seen how diverse the audience of Threads will even be– does it attract people who aren’t already on Facebook? If it doesn’t, how much more extra effort would be required in terms of normal customer acquisition costs to make it as valuable as Instagram? Likely years, and by that time horizon the window of opportunity might close. ↩︎