Threads APP. Review of the new application through the eyes of an OSINT analyst.

Threads APP. Review of the new application from the perspective of an OSINT analyst.

In the world of social media, the emergence of new applications is commonplace. One of the latest is the Threads application, which is attracting interest from both users and OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) analysts. In this article, we will examine whether Threads poses competition for X (formerly Twitter), what are the basic functions of this application, and what impact it has on the OSINT industry.

Threads, a new text application created by Meta, is perceived as a competitor, and even a threat to X, especially in the context of the platform’s introduction of controversial measures against data scraping. Threads stands out with the ability to post entries of up to 500 characters, compared to the 280-character limit on X. Like X, Threads encourages users to like, repost (retweet), and quote content.

Basic user profile information on Threads reflects Instagram accounts – username, bio, and profile picture. Content analysis and user engagement help profile networks, hobbies, lifestyle patterns, and locations.

Availability of Threads in Poland

Threads became available in Poland and across the European Union as of December 14, 2023.

Browsing without a registered account

Interaction with content on Threads is limited only to browsing content, there is no possibility to interact with other users. Public profiles and content are still visible in desktop browsers. Search engines already index content, and Google returns more results than Yandex or Bing at this stage.

Google Dorking can be used to search: “word” – search for posts with a specific word – search for usernames

Technical perspective on profiles in Threads APP

To access larger versions of users’ profile pictures and images, similar to Instagram accounts, you need to use browser developer tools. Threads use the same user identifiers as Instagram accounts. Unique user identifiers are useful for correlating user accounts, especially when monitoring them over a longer period. User ID is also useful for searching Meta Platforms data (only for law enforcement officers). Like Instagram, Threads uses the GraphQL API – generating HTTP POST requests using GraphQL can allow you to retrieve Threads user data, including threads, likes, replies, and profile data.

Threads APP – Authorized browsing

It is possible to search by username as well as by keywords and hashtags.

Threads is a text-based platform, which sets it apart from Instagram’s initial image-focused approach. The application is integrated with Instagram, allowing users to find and follow the same people they interact with on Instagram. An account can be created as public or private. The application quickly gained popularity, reaching over 100 million users within the first five days, although the number of its daily active users significantly decreased to 8 million by the end of July 2023.

Comparison between Threads and X

Threads differs from X in several key aspects. Here are a few distinguishing features:

  • Character Limit: Threads allows for posts of up to 500 characters, compared to the 280-character limit on X.
  • Lack of Private Messages: Unlike X, Threads does not offer the option to send private messages between users.
  • Post Chronology: Threads does not allow for the arrangement of visible posts according to their chronology.
  • No Ads: At least initially, Threads does not contain ads, which differs from the X platform.

What does a registered user’s account look like on Threads?

A registered user’s profile is linked to their Instagram account. Users can create private accounts (only approved followers can interact and share content) and public accounts. Users can personalize their profile by sharing text, images, and videos. The profile structure is simplified, focusing on sharing and interacting with content.

How to add a thread and respond to it?

Adding a thread in Threads is simple and intuitive. Users can create new threads using the publishing option, similar to other social media platforms. They can add text, images, links, videos, polls, voice messages, and gifs. Responding to threads is also easy – users can comment and react to other posts, creating interactive discussions.

Meta Platforms is actively working on the development and expansion of Threads features. They have introduced various features, including sharing threads in Instagram DMs, a new mention button, the ability to edit alt-text descriptions of photos and videos, and the option of a chronological feed. Threads also supports automatic translation based on the user’s language settings, increasing accessibility and user comfort.

In terms of future development, Meta has signaled its commitment to open standards, allowing Threads profiles to verify identity on supported platforms such as Mastodon. They are also working on integrating Threads with ActivityPub, an open, decentralized social networking protocol, aiming to make social media content as interoperable as email. This approach aims to give users greater control over their online presence and the ability to distribute their posts across various social media applications.

Impact of Threads APP on the OSINT industry

Threads APP is potentially perceived as a threat to X. Not without reason, Threads may have much more to offer for OSINT analysts.

An important piece of information for analysts, researchers, and developers is that Threads is currently testing (latest media reports on this matter are from December 2023) its own free API (API – Application Programming Interface, a technology enabling communication between applications) for connecting to external services and applications.

For example, Instagram has several API interfaces that allow creators (or influencers) and business accounts to manage messages and gather data about followers and their engagement.

Last year, on the X platform, free API access was restricted due to Elon Musk’s policy, and the prices of paid parts also significantly increased, causing many applications and services to drop out of the market.

Currently, OSINT analysts, as well as researchers, have a difficult task in terms of profile analysis on this platform. Analysts and researchers are left to use manual advanced searching in X or Google Dorking in web search engines. For those who are not well-versed in advanced searching, one tool for analyzing X still works and was created by Michael Bazzell (Guru Osint) on his IntelTechniques website. People who do not want to create accounts on X can view some content on the platform through Nitter (an alternative X browser with open-source code). For some X accounts, you can still use the Wayback Machine (digital archive of websites) to view the archived profile view. These solutions are still partial, and at the level of Open Source Intelligence, a limited amount of data is obtained, which in advanced cases is not sufficient to fully verify the user’s identity.

Furthermore, the open question remains whether and how the platform will integrate with the open social media protocol ActivityPub. Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram) openly committed to linking Threads with the open social media protocol. He even took a small step in this direction, allowing verification of the Threads profile in the so-called fediverse. If it truly starts supporting ActivityPub, users will start seeing Threads posts in the fediverse channel, which also includes posts from Mastodon, Reddit, and any other platform operating on this protocol.

Commentary from an OSINT analyst:

“I’m curious about how the open Threads API will look like and what possibilities it might offer to OSINT analysts? What will be its impact on the development of new services and applications that will emerge, and to what extent will it streamline our (OSINT practitioners) information acquisition work?” – Alicja Pawłowska

It is also worth noting that with the introduction of the new application to the market, we can expect an increase in the number of fake accounts impersonating known institutions or public figures. Already, domains with names similar to the original Threads domain have started to appear, aiming to deceive and lure users into downloading fake versions of the application.

Certainly, it is worthwhile to monitor this application from the very beginning and the emergence of new functionalities. With the emergence of a new player in the market, several questions arise, including whether this application will be accepted in markets like Poland / Europe? Will users of X also have profiles on Threads? For some individuals, the integration of Threads accounts with Instagram will be a major drawback when deciding to create an account.

Author: Alicja Pawłowska

Sources: SlashGear, Engineering at Meta, Wikipedia.

Please familiarize yourself with our article on the threats in the era of digitization:

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