News & Insights

Digital Dive: Threads, Twitter’s Transformation, and YouTube’s Scandal

By Alyssa Carino

The Digital Dive - Digital Intelligence Newsletter.

The Big Story

Threads is Here…But to Stay?

At the beginning of July, Meta announced their new, dynamic app designed for real-time updates and interactive public conversations, Threads. Threads brings a fresh platform to share your thoughts in text format with the ability to post up to 500 characters, and include links, photos, or videos up to 5 minutes long. Just like Instagram, Threads offers a positive, creative space to express ideas, follow friends and creators who share your interests, and explore new content from creators you’ve yet to discover. To get started, simply log in with your Instagram account, and your credentials will carry over. So far, the app has been rolled out to over 100 countries for both iOS and Android users.

According to Meta, Threads pays particular attention to user safety and data privacy. Users have full control over who can mention them or respond to their threads. Plus, Threads filters out replies containing specific words selected by users.

In a significant step toward future internet compatibility, Threads plans to work with ActivityPub, an open social networking protocol. This compatibility would allow Threads to interact with other apps supporting the ActivityPub protocol, enabling diverse and interconnected networks.

Recent reports have suggested that Threads is losing steam, citing a significant decline in the number of daily active users. However, it might be too soon to write off Threads just yet. Despite the decline, the app is still growing its user base and making strides in global markets. It is common for a new app to experience a surge in usage numbers in the early days as users explore its features and functionalities. A subsequent dip as the excitement wears off is also typical, and Meta executives have stated that they had anticipated this trend and are not alarmed by it.

Threads still shows great potential as a Twitter rival. In its first days post-launch, Threads users spent an average of 15 minutes per day on the app, exceeding the category averages for similar platforms. And while Threads usage may have declined for now, it could be due to its current limited feature set rather than disappointment with the app itself. Threads is still very much in its early stages and lacks several key features that users expect from a microblogging tool. These features, however, are in the pipeline, and their eventual roll-out could boost the app’s usage significantly.

Threads, with an estimated user base of 116 million and growing, is far from being labeled a failure. While it’s true that Meta’s track record for launching successful new apps is spotty, the trajectory of Threads could be different. It’s too early to come to conclusions about its ultimate fate. The ebb and flow of user engagement are common in this space, and Threads’ future looks promising with the potential to reshape microblogging dynamics.

Social Updates

A Digital Showdown: Canada’s Online News Act Sparks Tension with Tech Giants

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government find themselves in a complex face-off with tech behemoths, Google and Meta, in defense of its new legislation, Bill C-18. This is also known as the Online News Act, which aims to require tech companies to compensate news outlets for sharing links to their pages to revitalize a struggling media industry. Both companies have responded with strong objections and threats, raising global concerns about the influence these companies have over news dissemination and the precedent this might set for other countries. Despite the backlash, the Canadian government remains determined to enforce the law by the end of the year. It is a global test case, with consequences reaching far beyond Canadian borders. However, the controversy has some news outlets fearing that an attempt to bolster their industry might actually undermine it. The debate around Bill C-18 and the global implications of its enforcement continue to unfold as tech companies resist what they claim are “fundamentally flawed” and “unworkable” regulations.

Musk Sets Temporary Tweet Limit

Earlier in July, Elon Musk temporarily imposed a daily limit on the number of tweets users can view as an attempt to curb extensive data scraping and system manipulation. The new policy restricts verified accounts to 6,000 posts per day, unverified accounts to 600, and new unverified accounts to 300. Once users reach their limit, they will see a “rate limit exceeded” message and will be unable to scroll through any new tweets. Although Musk plans to increase these limits soon, the change has resulted in significant user backlash, especially from information agencies, journalists, and monitoring services which heavily rely on reviewing numerous tweets daily. In response to the restrictions, alternative Twitter-like platforms, like Bluesky, Mastodon and now Instagram’s Threads, have seen a surge in users and activity.

Introducing: X

Elon Musk announced his plans to replace Twitter’s iconic blue bird logo with a new logo featuring an “X”, marking another significant step in his ongoing efforts to rebrand the platform. To Musk, this is more than just a name change as he plans to transform the platform into a “super app” that accommodates multiple functions, including direct messaging, payments, and video streaming. He believes the new “X” logo will “embody the imperfections in us all that make us unique.” Musk’s radical changes, however, have led to various business complications, including a drop in ad revenue and rising competition. Notably, the drastic alterations to Twitter’s content moderation policies have deterred advertisers, causing a 50% decrease in Twitter ad revenue. Musk’s changes have also motivated competitors like Meta to launch their rival apps. However, by stripping Twitter of its globally recognized name and logo, Musk risks losing a significant competitive edge in an environment where other platforms are vying to challenge Twitter’s status.

Digital Updates

Google Under Fire: YouTube Violates Terms of Service

To add to Google’s current legal battles, The Wall Street Journal released a piece at the end of June revealing how YouTube violated its own Terms of Service. In addition to running ads on YouTube’s website and app, advertisers can also choose to serve video ads on other sites associated with Google, through a program called Google Video Partners. With this program, Google charges a premium and claims that these associated websites provide the same ad experience as YouTube, with audio on, and brands only pay for ads that aren’t skipped. According to research by Adalytics, Google violates those standards about 80% of the time. Their research revealed that ads placed on partner sites are often muted, autoplay off to the side of the screen, and cannot be skipped. This means that advertisers are paying a premium price to place ads through Google Video Partners and are not receiving the exposure or experience that YouTube promises. Google released a statement arguing against Adalytics’ claims stating that the report uses “unreliable sampling and proxy methodologies.” The punches seem to keep on coming for Google, which will likely start to shake things up in the digital advertising space, as advertisers continue to lose trust.

Netflix Cancels Basic Subscriptions to Boost Ad-Tier

Netflix has discontinued its basic $9.99 per month ad-free plan for new or rejoining members in the U.S. and UK, aiming to attract more subscribers to its ad-supported tier. The streaming giant had previously introduced their ad-tier, a cheaper $7 per month option with commercials, in a dozen markets, including the U.S., to bolster their customer base and revenue amid intensifying competition for online viewership. Netflix had also cracked down on password sharing and imposed additional fees for users sharing an account outside the same household. This spurred a surge in sign-ups for its cheaper ad-supported tier. Analysts believe that this move will lead to a significant increase in subscribers for Netflix’s $6.99 ad tier base and subsequently higher advertising revenue. As of May, the ad-supported tier had nearly 5 million active users per month.

Apple’s Generative AI Program

According to insider sources, Apple is discreetly developing an AI chatbot, “Apple GPT,” to rival other tech giants in the field of large language models and generative AI tools. This could potentially lead to inbuilt conversational AI capabilities across Apple’s operating systems, accessible via an Apple ID. The tech company is said to have constructed an AI framework, “Ajax,” serving as the base for its generative AI chat system. While Apple has not openly confirmed using transcripts from Siri for training and refining AI models, its privacy policy suggests such use may occur. The successful development of an AI chatbot could have considerable implications for existing chatbots, particularly those available on the App Store. However, Apple’s rollout timeline and strategy remain undefined, although hints were dropped at the 2023 WWDC event, indicating that Apple’s entry into the AI field could majorly transform future tech interactions.

Restoring Digital Harmony: EU-US Reach Consensus on Cross-Border Data Transfers

In a move that puts an end to a three-year deadlock, the EU and the US have agreed upon a framework for cross-border data transfers, reinstating the crucial data exchange that fuels the information economy and represents billions in trade. The agreement, known as the EU-US Data Privacy Framework, comes after a 2020 decision by the EU’s top court blocked data transfers over apprehensions about US intelligence agencies’ access to European data. The new framework deems that the US provides adequate protection for European data, while also offering EU citizens several new rights, including access to their personal data and the option to correct or delete any mishandled information. The agreement will likely be embraced by the digital advertising industry, which significantly relies on consumer data tracking. However, experts warn that the framework may face legal challenges from privacy advocates who argue it does not adequately address US surveillance practices and consumer privacy protection.

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