Alt Text, Where You @?

Threads, Mark Zuckerberg’s newest social media platform, arrived on July 5th. Gaining 100 million users in the first five days, it quickly tried to position itself as the successor to Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter.

Most things that Meta have come up with build on existing ideas, and in this case there was a clear and known framework to follow and improve upon. They started off strong by targeting those who had left Twitter after Musk made some less than popular changes. Threads’ key advantages are posts can have longer text, and you can upload longer videos than you can on an unverified X account.

However, there are some aspects that have not been taken on, and it has raised some questions.

One of these features is replies. When you reply to a post on the X app, the most recent responses can be seen first. Threads shows them the other way around, with the oldest reply first, making it difficult to tell the order of a back and forth discussion.

Also currently missing from Threads is the ability to use Hashtags. They make it easy for a community to find similar themes and discussions, but at the moment, hashtags do not connect to one another.

Trending topics make it easy to find out what’s happening in the world, but this too is absent from Threads.

And then there’s alt text.

It might be a bit much to think Threads should be a complete copy of X, so there should be some things to keep them separate. However, Alt Text should not have been one of those things.

User generated alt text is the written description that explains an image, so the wider community has access to the same information, even with limited vision. It is important for making any brand inclusive, especially a social media platform like this. Putting the function on shouldn’t even be hard. Usually a small button to click, and everyone is on the same page.

Zuckerberg has since made a statement that alt text, among other things, will be addressed over the course of August. Except, Zuckerberg is the CEO of Meta, who own Facebook and WhatsApp. He’s been involved in communication for so long that something like this shouldn’t have been missed. It leads me to ask why nobody thought of sorting things like this for all users from the beginning. Currently, some people are able to upload images and videos with alt text, but many others still don’t have the function.  

A directional arrow with text saying Accessibility. Below is text saying Show Alt Text, see alt text for other's photos and videos if they're available 
A button is shown with an arrow pointing towards it, offering the option

In the device settings, go to the accessibility drop down, and the alt text function button might be available to switch on.

Coming from the team behind Instagram, a site that is mostly about the visuals, Threads should have been able to set itself up as a positive force for creativity and diversity, having learned what works for other social media platforms. The Threads Project Head, Adam Mosseri, said that the difference between Instagram and Threads is not about “text versus photos and videos, and more about what public conversations you want to have”. Yet they proceeded to leave out an aspect that would make those conversations so much easier. Overlooking something as fundamental as that upon launch makes it seem as though it was an afterthought. Definitely not a good look.