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Fk You to Threads' In-app Browser
Threads presents an invasive, shitty, UX for no justifiable reason, but I guess we're used to this now.
Meta’s Facebook’s Instagram’s Threads’ in-app browser can go straight to hell. It is not just the default setting, you cannot choose to turn it off. It’s the worst possible user experience.
I don’t know how many times we have to dance around pretending that there is some reasonable argument for in-app browsers, but there just isn’t. In-app browsers cut users off from sites they log into on their standard browser, forcing them to log in multiple times on the same device. They cut users off from history and browsing tools they have learned when they choose or accept their default browser.
In-app browsers are incredibly privacy invasive. They let the parent app do all sorts of shitty things to track you and intentionally evade any protections you’ve given yourself through your browser choice and configuration.
Apps are fundamentally bad, but in-app browsers are even worse. A plague on modern app development—a potent avoidance strategy of privacy advances in the browser and device—they present no advantage to the user.
In-app browsers are fundamentally worse experiences designed for only two purposes: more invasive tracking and to keep you trapped inside an app at the moment you have specifically made a choice to escape. They make it harder to read the web while parasitically benefitting from the open web’s existence.
In-app browsers make it harder to share pages to other apps, a down-right crime in our new era of social platform plurality. Worst of all, they prevent you from using the browser experience you’ve specifically selected on your phone.
In-app browsers are gross. Their very existence shows that the 30% that app stores claim as a tax used for moderation and safety for users is a dirty lie. That the dominant phone OSes allow them to exist is a fundamental compromise of any claim that they are acting on behalf of users.
In-app browsers are fundamentally anti-user. And yet… they fking persist.
Notably none of new batch of social networks require in-app browsers. Except Threads.
Oh, plenty of apps keep trying to sneak it back in, to change the defaults on an update, to convince you: this time the in-app browser is good. But it is not good. Users have, historically, rejected it in the micro-blogging context in particular. By which I mean Twitter. Chances are if you’ve come here from Twitter you’ve turned off your in-app browser in that app at least two times.
Text-focused social networks like the growing selection of Twitter competitors, and Twitter itself, understand that their primary use is link amplification and organization. Threads—Meta’s new offering to the ‘what if Twitter wasn’t run by an egomaniac racist discriminatory asshole’ product category—is a short-post text-focused social network. Therefore its primary use is also link amplification and organization. At least 50% of what you do on Threads is click links.
Instagram has long managed to get away with its in-app browser because it is designed as a link-light social network. You are not joining Instagram to share links. That doesn’t make Instagram’s in-app browser more acceptable, it just makes it less noticeable and annoying.
Threads is a link-heavy social network. Threads is a network for sharing links. That’s what all short-post text-focused social networks are for. If anyone tells you that there is a social network whose primary medium is short text and it isn’t for sharing links… they are a liar. For all the attempts that social networks make to keep you inside the walled garden, it just isn’t possible for a format like Threads and Twitter presents.
That’s why Threads’ in-app browser isn’t just a bad user experience, it isn’t just privacy-invasive… it is offensive. The Threads in-app browser isn’t just bad, it actively counteracts the entire user flow of that type of social network Threads intends to create.
Facebook is loathe to give up the in-app browser because it gives them so many better options for tracking and because it is their best tool for preventing users from realizing that a great deal of their “Facebook” interactions aren’t on a platform owned by Meta. But while it is bad everywhere, it is unacceptable on Threads.
Threads doesn’t just present an in-app browser… it doesn’t allow you to choose anything else. Unlike almost every other non-Meta social network app, there is no way to turn off the opening of external links in the in-app browser and there is no justification for it. I don’t mean this metaphorically. Meta/Facebook/Instagram has never given any real justification for its use of in-app browsers in any of its apps and absolutely hasn’t for Threads.
In-app browsers are unacceptable in any context but on Threads, where the primary action is clicking on links, it is anti-user. It is impossible to sustain. No one should accept this. Yell, thread, tweet, email, weave, whatever it takes. You cannot let this stand. If you let Threads get away with it, then the window of what is acceptable changes and more will try. Apps are already barely useable but a world of apps where we allow Twitter clones to get away with in-app browsers as a default unalterable setting is fking unlivable.
Don’t settle for any social network that telegraphs just how much it hates you by forcing you into in-app browsers.
I promise I’ll get to my Reddit API post next time around. This just was too infuriating. I’ve decided to try an open comment section for this post. Don’t disappoint me by being an asshole.
This post represents my **personal** opinion and does not reflect the position of my current, past, or future employers, this platform, or anyone other than me singularly.