Last week, Meta released their now somewhat infamous Threads app – a direct competitor to Twitter that through an Instagram-driven onboarding process set the record for fastest-growing user base, hitting 100,000,000 registered users in less than 5 days.

Whilst the sheer scale of the launch itself is impressive, there’s the argument that its users are a direct subset of Instagram (there’s currently no way to register for Threads without an Instagram account, and you subsequently can’t delete a Threads account without deleting your associated Instagram account) and therefore the number of overall Meta product users has not increased anywhere near inline with the number of new Threads accounts.

Beyond that, we’re yet to see the results of user churn – how many accounts have been created to take a look around once and are never used again, for example. In the coming months, metrics like MAU (monthly active users) and the inevitable revenue generation through ads will be the key to deciding whether the full Threads product is a true hit or not, but right now, there is no MAU or ad revenue. Threads isn’t even a full product. Threads is likely as close to an MVP as you’ll see in public from a company the size of Meta.

The role of an MVP

An MVP, or minimum viable product, is typically the first release of a product to the market. Without digging into the realms of Alpha and Beta-style versioning, an MVP is a logical successor to your proof of concept (PoC).

Where your proof of concept aims to demonstrate that there is a quantifiable need for your product or innovation by creating a solution in its most basic form, a minimum viable product is the culmination of the limited number of features needed to begin providing your solution to your ideal end-user. For those familiar with Moscow prioritisation, your MVP is typically going to be your product’s cumulative ‘must haves’.

Understanding the must-haves

With the must have’s in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into Threads and its core concept, before looking at what’s been included as part of an MVP and what’s yet to be built (but presumably part of the longer-term roadmap). Meta’s vision for Threads, as per the release announcement is: Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas. Just like on Instagram, with Threads you can follow and connect with friends and creators who share your interests – including the people you follow on Instagram and beyond. From just this snippet and an idea of the basic concepts of any social network, in a basic form, we can assume the must-haves are along the lines of:

  • The ability to create an account from Instagram,
  • The ability to manage a basic user profile and the privacy of the account,
  • The ability to create text-based posts,
  • The ability to interact with posts, by replying, liking, or reposting,
  • The ability to find and follow your friends and other users.
  • A single feed of threads, a combination of followed accounts, and algorithmically selected posts.

With these high-level must-haves, you have an MVP for the Threads app that can be brought into the world. Notably, then, just some of the high-level features missing from the MVP are:

  • The ability to create an account directly,
  • The ability to manage your username in the app, rather than via Instagram,
  • The ability to find specific threads,
  • The ability to use hashtags,
  • A separation of feeds between algorithmic posts and threads from those you choose to follow,
  • The ability to run ads through the platform, integrated into Meta Business Suite.

These along with others, fall into the second and third columns of Moscow: should have and could have. The final column being wont have. Moscow is sometimes styled as MoSCoW to reflect the initials of each column.

Avoiding the temptation to over-engineer

The desire to build and launch an all-encompassing, feature-rich platform from day one is understandably tempting, but it’s an expensive and risky process.

In many circumstances, it’s the equivalent of going all in on your first hand at the poker table. During any development, assumptions and opinionated decisions are made, which deliver results built on beliefs and hunches, and when left too long, those decisions become an expensive technical debt that takes time to clear. Building to reach an MVP removes the opportunity to overly engineer or invest in any assumption.

The goal of an MVP is to test your assumptions early at some scale and get definitive answers before those opinionated decisions become set in stone, as well as gather feedback on things you may not have even considered.

Beyond that, if you’re building in a somewhat stealth mode and waiting to release a full first version, you’ve likely stockpiled a considerable amount of bugs and unexpected behaviors across your platform (it happens to all of us) that without extensive and widespread testing will continue to lurk. Your post-launch development cycles will likely be spent firefighting issues that have existed quietly for some time and the bigger the product release, the longer it can take to resolve, test and deploy.

Iterating on your MVP

It’s once those core assumptions are validated and the must-haves are refined that you can move onto the previously mentioned second column of should-haves and begin to scope the could-haves further. We’re in the early stages of life for Threads and so we’ll see those should have elements, as well as some of the could have elements that come into play over the coming weeks and months.

Better yet, Adam Mosseri, the Head of Instagram and a lead on Threads is actively using the app to communicate with users on upcoming features, such as hashtags, and whether we can expect them or not. It’s a transparent approach that helps to manage expectations whilst also showing your users that they are heard.

Measuring the results

Your MVP will have less, or different measures to your ‘v1’ product. For most, the key measure will be around adoption and usage, finances, and efficiency. For internal tools, your key MVP measure will be around how much money or time it has saved, or the increased amount of tasks/work/projects that any person or team has been able to complete on average versus before your innovation. For public tools, this tends to be a focus on sign-ups, active users, and the percentage of users that opt for a paid tier, in the case of freemium products in SaaS offerings.

Your long-term measures will likely still consist of those from your MVP, but expand upon them further based on the iterations and features you continue to develop and release. Again, for internal tools, these measures continue to focus on efficiencies such as response times and income generated per user, whereas for public tools the key metrics focus on customer lifetime value, monthly recurring revenue, and user churn rates, for example.

At the time of writing, Threads’ primary metric will be building a stable and growing MAU. Whilst the 100,000,000 registered users number will get people’s immediate attention, it’s unavoidable that a % of these will drop off almost immediately and thus the real measure is active users. We’ll get an early indication of this around month three if Meta chooses to reveal it, but we may need to wait until their earnings call to find out more. It’s worth noting that because of Threads’ requirement for an existing Instagram account, there’ll also be a focus on the number of new Instagram users, too.

Importantly though, even with a percentage of users churning, Threads has now built a multi-million user platform and such a sizeable audience is attractive to advertisers, increasing the average cost per click for any given ad and thus more money for Meta. Their MVP launch gets users onboard, gathers feedback, and then allows them to monetise a solution that’s built partially on user feedback.

Threads’ long-term plans to integrate with other platforms such as Mastodon means that users will not always belong to their platform, so MAU won’t be their only key metric going forward. This is where ads will kick in and the revenue from monetising the platform will become a significant indicator of the success of Threads.

Separately, the teams at Threads and the parent Meta will undoubtedly have one eye on Twitter. As a direct competitor, a declining number of active users there would indicate that some of them have migrated to Threads or similar tools as one of their primary social networks.