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Chronological search isn’t on Threads due to spam concerns


When Meta released a text-based app spun off of Instagram, Threads, it wasn’t actually ready for prime time. Threads was released by Meta early to capitalize on X’s (formerly Twitter) state of disarray. In the time since Instagram and Threads head Adam Mosseri has had frequent AMAs with users to try and figure out what features should be prioritized on the new platform. But when asked about chronological search — simply showing search results in the order in which they were posted — Mosseri had a definitive answer: no.

“No, that would create substantial safety loopholes,” Mosseri wrote in response to the Thread.

You might be wondering what “safety loopholes” Mosseri was referring to. A lot of others were too, and this prompted the Threads boss to clear things up. “My concern is, if you have a chronological and comprehensive search…that is an opportunity for abuse for bad actors,” Mosseri said in a subsequent video post. “So if something happens in the world, [spammers] can pummel the search results page by just adding the right word with their spam links.”

That’s why a chronological search results feed would be complicated, according to Mosseri. He says that there are a few ways to combat this, like having a search results page that takes into account both chronology and quality. However, Mosseri said that Threads being the arbiter of which results are worthy of appearing would bring censorship concerns. With all this in mind, he didn’t rule it out in the future.

“It’s just not as straightforward as people like to make it out to be,” Mosseri said. “But we are definitely exploring all of the options.”

No chronological search could hold Threads back

Threads has hit some huge milestones as it tries to become the biggest text-based social media app. It hit 100 million users quicker than any other app in history earlier this year, before losing that title to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Ironically, looking at OpenAI can tell us why chronological search might be the key to Threads’ success.

At the end of last month, OpenAI’s leadership was in a state of chaos. If you haven’t been following the leadership struggle, you can catch up with a full recap here. But the point is, the entire tech community was following the OpenAI by the minute — on X, not Threads. Despite all the things going wrong at X, the platform was still the go-to news source for following a constant, developing story.

You could make the case that chronological search on X is a big reason why. If you wanted to find out more about the topic, you could search “Sam Altman” or “OpenAI” on X and find results as they were posted. Threads has a long way to go with regard to being a source for breaking news, and it’ll be tough to get there without a chronological search function.

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