Threads, Meta's rival to Twitter, has had another significant free upgrade – but sadly it's not the desktop version that many power users have been clamouring for. Instead, Meta has tied it even more closely to Instagram.
The upgrade, announced by Mark Zuckerberg and available in the iOS and Android apps now, enables you to share Threads posts to Instagram direct messages. It's not quite the integrated DM service many users wanted or the desktop version that's already been announced but not yet delivered, but it is a step in the right direction, albeit one that requires you to use Instagram as well as Threads. There's also a new Mention button that makes it easier to tag other people in your posts.
There are also two less headline grabbing but very important features: custom alt-text on photos and videos, and better verification on fediverse platforms such as Mastodon. The fediverse is the term used to describe multiple federated social networks that can connect to one another while remaining separate entities, so for example Threads users could (but can't yet) communicate with Mastodon users and vice-versa.
Why these Threads updates are important
If you're a sighted social media user, Alt-text is the text that appears when you hover over an image or video. It's absolutely crucial for people with vision issues: without alt-text they can't necessarily tell what the image or video is supposed to be.
Posting without alt-text on rival networks is a big no-no, and that culture is a good thing: post an image without alt-tex on Mastodon and you'll get told off, and you can set Bluesky to make sure that you put alt-text on everything in the app's settings. So improvements to Threads' alt-text features are very welcome for the huge numbers of people who browse the service using accessibility features, screen readers and so on.
The second feature, identity verification in the fediverse, is important too. As Threads boss Adam Mosseri posted, "We’ve also rolled out Threads support for rel=me links to help you verify your identity on platforms like Mastodon. You can now add your Threads profile link on supported platforms to verify your identity." This is significant as much for what it represents as how useful it is: it's Meta saying that it's keen to make sure Threads is a good citizen of the fediverse.