Do Threads’ sparse downloads mean Facebook’s best days are in the past?

episode 227 instagram threads

Facebook started in a dorm room as a network exclusively for students and turned into a 2 billion user platform successful enough to bring accusations of holding a monopoly, but the company’s latest app aimed at Generation Z has sputtered in comparison. In the first week, Instagram Threads, an app inspired by the Gen Z-favorite Snapchat, saw downloads by less than 0.1% of Instagram users. But Threads isn’t the only new product from Facebook that has failed to leverage the company’s large user base for growth. As investors back out of Libra, Lasso sees a tiny percentage of TikTok’s download numbers, and IGTV grows slower than expected, can an old dog really learn new tricks?

According to data from Apptopia, Instagram Threads saw just 220,000 downloads in the first week. The app, like Snapchat, opens straight into the camera and offers private messaging as well as status updates shared only with a group of your closest friends. The messages tie in with Instagram, which allows users to socialize on the network even before friends download the app, but also makes the app feel, in part, redundant.

Launched late last year, Facebook’s TikTok competitor aimed at that same younger user base hasn’t fared much better. In the first roughly four months of Lasso’s existence, the short video dance app saw 70,000 downloads while TikTok saw 39.6 million new users in the same time frame. And in an ironic twist, after Facebook imitated TikTok, new reports suggest TikTok has moved into Facebook’s backyard in the Silicon Valley and is siphoning its employees.

IGTV has likely fared the best out of the company’s latest app attempt, eventually reaching the 25th-most-downloaded spot on the App Store. While IGTV won’t be written off as a failure — especially with integration right inside Instagram without downloading a second app, but growth for Instagram’s video platform was slower than expected.

Between Threads, Lasso, and IGTV, Facebook hasn’t had instant success with its latest new ideas — though arguably, those ideas weren’t new at all. Threads takes obvious inspiration from Snapchat, Lasso attempts to steal TikTok fans, and IGTV is a YouTube for vertical video. While Instagram’s Stories clone has proved successful, the stand-alone apps attempting to capitalize on the latest trends have been slow starts, at least when looking at the main Facebook app’s 2 billion-user success.

Facebook’s string of latest struggling starts isn’t just limited to products aimed at the younger generations. Libra, Facebook’s cryptocurrency, lost several initial backers before officially creating the council. The latest to leave, Booking Holding, the owner of booking.com, Kayak, and Priceline, joined companies like eBay, PayPal, Mastercard, Stripe, and Visa to abandon Facebook’s new crypto.

That’s not to say Facebook itself isn’t growing. Facebook’s latest numbers — shared in April 2019 — showed growth of 8%. That’s slower than previous numbers for the social media giant, however — even the report following Cambridge Analytica and #deletefacebook showed a growth of 12%. For the entire family of apps, more than 2.1 billion users are on one of the Facebook-owned apps every day.

A 2 billion-user base is far from failing, just as a slow launch doesn’t necessarily mean an app is doomed to fail. But, Facebook’s fastest growth may be in the company’s past if its newest ideas don’t find traction among the youngest generation.

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