Threads has entered the EU, can this revive the app?

14 Dec 2023

Image: © salarko/

Threads has struggled to retain users since it launched in July, but the app has received multiple features since then which may give it an advantage in the EU.

After months of anticipation, Meta’s potential rival to X – Threads – has entered the EU market, giving it access to a market of nearly 450m potential users.

The text-based app launched in July and very quickly saw a massive amount of users – boosted by its connection to Instagram and its 1.2bn monthly users. But Meta chose to avoid launching it in the EU due to concerns about the bloc’s strict regulations for online services.

The app was hailed at launch as a counter to X – formerly known as Twitter – which has been under scrutiny since Elon Musk took over the platform last year. Musk even threatened to sue Meta over similarities between the two apps.

But Threads’ rapid rise quickly slowed down – arguably due to a lack of features and a failure to stand out in the competitive, crowded social media market. But can the EU give it the boost it needs to truly become a challenger to X?

The long road to the EU

Threads launched in more than 100 countries in July including the UK – which made it more apparent that the issue with an EU launch lay in its data laws. Meta and its affiliated apps have faced multiple court cases and various fines in the EU due to GDPR breaches.

In the days leading up to the launch, some people criticised Threads for the amount of data the app looks set to take from its users. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted the privacy information of the app, with the caption “All your Threads are [sic] belong to us”.

It seems Meta has taken its time to ensure that Threads would not face the same scrutiny other company apps have faced in the EU. A key extra feature being offered to EU users is the ability to view content on the app without creating a profile – a way to offer a choice of privacy protection it seems.

A waning user base

Despite the initial success of Threads – being one of the most successful launches of all time – the number of daily active users fell sharply in a short space of time. Analytics firms claimed the app’s daily active users had dropped by more than 80pc by the first week of August.

Earlier this year, Zuckerberg said he was “quite optimistic” about Threads, but that the app won’t be monetised anytime soon.

The app was criticised after launch for a lack of features compared to rival platforms such as X. For example, Threads received a batch of user-requested features towards the end of July that already existed on X for some time, such as the ability to filter posts based on who a user is following, or being able to translate the language of a post.

In an opinion piece on The Guardian in July, Siva Vaidhyanathan described Threads as bland, boring and “destined to fail”.

But the app has had a lot of updates since then, which may give it a better chance to retain users in the EU. In October, Meta rolled out new features on Threads, including polls and GIFs. The app also recently launched its own version of hashtags – though users can only make one tag per post.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an earnings call in October that Threads had just under 100m monthly active users, representing a turnaround for the app. The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, also said more updates are planned to improve the app.

“We have lots more to do and need to be careful not to be too confident,” Mosseri said. “I’m hoping we can land support for Europe, early Fediverse progress, better Instagram integrations and trends in the next few months.”

But the app still appears to be lagging behind in the social media market. A forecast by Insider Intelligence towards the end of September predicted that Threads would have 23.7m monthly users in the US, which would be less than half the user base of X.

This forecast also predicted that Threads would be ranked second-to-last among social networks in the US and that this will remain “unchanged through 2025”.

Competing with X

The big question now is whether Threads will be able to rival X in terms of users in the EU. The app may be able to capitalise on the continuing fallout between Musk and advertisers on X, which has grown more intense in recent months with big brands such as IBM and Disney pulling their ads off of the platform.

The Meta app may be boosted by the existing Instagram user base that exists in the EU, similar to how it surged at launch in other countries.

Meanwhile, reports from earlier this year suggest Musk may pull X out of Europe due to stricter regulation approaching the bloc, such as the Digital Services Act.

The European Commission launched an investigation into X in October, over the alleged spreading of disinformation on the platform about events taking place in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Israel and Palestine.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic