Threads opt-in vs. fediverse migration

As Threads rolls out support for ActivityPub, Meta’s approach is to require each Threads user to manually enable fediverse integration. This was demoed yesterday at FediForum. It’s a perfectly reasonable way to start, and I think the UI that Threads has come up with looks good.

There are problems with opt-in, though, particularly around account migration. Adam Mosseri has spoken about Meta’s long-term goal to use ActivityPub to let users move away from Threads:

…this is an open protocol for social networks so that they can talk to each other, and so you can actually even move eventually your followers from one app to another…

Migrating followers will only work if the followers have enabled fediverse support. Why? The way ActivityPub account migration works, the server holding the user’s account essentially sends a “move” activity to each follower. The follower’s server then updates their reference to point to the new, external server. For Threads, this will presumably do nothing if the follower has not enabled the fediverse, because there will be no way to follow and interact with a user outside of Threads.

So if someone has 100 followers, and only 5% have enabled the fediverse, when that person migrates away from Threads to Mastodon or, for example, only 5 of their followers will automatically follow the new account. This will be quite a big decrease in followers and discourage Threads users from migrating.

It is still early, and I think Threads has been very thoughtful about their approach. Account migration is an area that I hope they will consider more fully. There are ramifications for mixing accounts — some with fediverse support and some without — and long-term it becomes very complicated unless Threads goes all-in on the fediverse.

Manton Reece @manton