As X nears implosion, Instagram's Threads plans expansion to the EU sooner than you might think

Threads for Instagram
(Image credit: Future)

Hot on the heels of the news that more than 100 companies have removed their ads from X, the competition is starting to get serious. Meta-owned Instagram launched Threads earlier this year, although it didn't go live for one key group of people — those who live in countries that are part of the European Union. That could be about to change.

Threads only launched outside of the EU due to concerns over local rules surrounding how apps and services have to function, and the interlink between Threads and the Instagram app proper was thought to be a potential concern for regulators. But as X owner Elon Musk continues to alienate advertisers and users alike with controversial comments on a variety of things, Threads could be about to get a huge shot in the arm.

Musk recently said that the loss of advertisers from X could be enough to see the company cease to function. And despite a foul-mouthed rant in their direction, advertisers might not be too keen to reverse course. With that in mind, the arrival of Threads as a new player across almost an entire continent is probably not the news Musk wanted to wake up to this morning.

Coming to an EU country near you soon

While neither Meta nor Instagram has officially confirmed anything just yet, The Wall Street Journal reports that plans are afoot to bring Threads to the EU as soon as December. And with December starting tomorrow, the launch could be just around the corner.

The report notes that Meta and Instagram were put off by the EU's regulatory requirements, something it says are "among the toughest in the world." That's something Apple knows all about of course, having just added USB-C to the iPhone 15 at the behest of the same regulatory outfit.

However, Meta seems to have a solution — unlinking Threads and Instagram somewhat. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri had already confirmed the ability to delete a Threads account without also deleting the Instagram account it's associated with, and now the WSJ says Meta is ready to go a step further.

"To comply with those regulations, Meta will give EU users the choice of using Threads purely for consumption without a profile that allows them to make their own posts," the report claims, citing unnamed sources "familiar with the matter."

It's thought that this removal of the requirement to have an Instagram account to read Threads posts and the ability to uncouple a Threads account from Instagram could be enough to appease regulators.

Worth the risk

X app on iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

At this point, the quest for more users could well make launching in the EU a no-brainer for all concerned. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in October that Threads had around 100 million monthly active users, and one analyst believes that could balloon. Debra Aho Williamson, an independent tech analyst, told The Wall Street Journal that the inclusion of EU accounts could result in an additional 40 million monthly users for threads throughout 2024.

The extra users is about more than just figures, though. The more people on Threads, the more conversations there are. And the more conversations, the more engaging the platform will become. And in a world where X still remains the go-to place for discussing breaking news, more conversations could be exactly what Threads needs to try and tip the balance.

Of course, whether launching in the EU is a risk at all is a matter for debate. It seems unlikely that Threads will launch in the region before Instagram and Meta are convinced that it won't fall foul of EU rules, after all.

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Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.