10 Million Users Directed to Wrong “Threads” Site due to TLD Difference

A competitor to Slack, a messaging app for business team members, is the owner of the Threads(.com) domain and since Meta’s Threads(.net) launch, the platform has shot up in traffic from the site and with app downloads on Google Play.

Venture Smarter, a small business consulting organisation has made some observations and analysis on the matter and the findings definitely highlight the importance of making careful decisions as a business when starting or growing your digital footprint with the aim of brand awareness, but before we dive into the details of the incident, let’s get to know the basics.

What is a Domain, TLD and IP Address? Understanding the Differences

The address of a website, known as a domain name, serves as a unique and easily readable ID of digital sites or platforms, much like a physical address for locations in the real world. This is what visitors type into their browser’s search bar to find certain websites.

It’s a name that gives your digital platform or platforms a distinct presence within the online space. Without domain names, we’d be stuck with a long string of numbers that are referred to as IP addresses, or Internet Protocol addresses. Imagine having to remember a friend or store’s precise geographical coordinates and not their home address.

Top-Level Domains, or TLDs, are the letters that follow the final dot in this digital address. They are the topmost levels in the huge hierarchy of the internet’s Domain Name System, also known as DNS. You’d identify them as suffixes like “.com”, “.org”, “.net” and many more others.

These TLDs serve a variety of functions, such as stating the type of entity they represent (“.gov” for governmental organisations, for example) and for showing their geographical location of origin (such as “.uk” for the United Kingdom). The UK government’s TLDs are usually “.gov.uk”, for context.


What Can One Learn From This Minor Difference?

The recent Threads incident brings to the fore an interesting quirk of the TLD system. You see, even if two domains only differ by their TLD-think threads.com versus threads.net-they are perceived as entirely separate entities in the eyes of the internet.

Just like house numbers on different streets, they can belong to entirely unrelated owners, each with their distinct content and objectives. This is a byproduct of the way the Domain Name System, the internet’s address book, is designed. It highlights how crucial it is to secure a range of TLDs when planning out your digital presence.

Failure to do so may result in an unexpected benefit for an unintended site owner, as was the case when Meta’s unrelated Threads(.com) saw a surge in site traffic and app downloads following the introduction of Meta’s Threads(.net).

The Unexpected Digital Traffic

“Threads work app has won the lottery for sharing a brand name with Meta’s latest social network, resulting in millions of traffic accidentally landing on its website”, said Jon Morgan, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Venture Smarter.

“While some may argue that the traffic is irrelevant, as it was meant for the social network, analysis of the company’s app page has shown that the accidental traffic surge has resulted in millions of new downloads and a huge awareness boost of the work tool, surely boosting the company’s value and online rankings overnight. It’s also a valuable lesson to CEOs in securing all domains users may use to find your business, or you could benefit the wrong company”, he adds.

Traffic to the unrelated Threads(.com) increased greatly after the launch of Meta’s Threads(.net) and according to Venture Smarter, traffic increased by 12,148% in one month, from 88,011 visits in June to 10.78 million in July.

Over 10% of the 90 million visits in July went to Slack competitor, Threads(.com). Over 2.5 million visits arrived to the site on July 6, boosting its ranking up from 545,741st to 5,813th in just two weeks, and from 208,486th to 8,331st in just the United States.

To top it off, app downloads from Google Play increased from 2,600 each month on average to over a million in July.

An Eye-Opener for Businesses and Brand Strategists Across Industries

In an amusing irony, three former Facebook (now Meta) employees created and launched the work communication software Threads(.com): Jon McCord, Mark Rich, and Rousseau Kazi. They are now in the remarkable position of greatly benefiting from their previous employer’s oversight.

The story served as a potent lesson for organisations and entrepreneurs all around the world: in the digital age, owning your brand entails more than just having a great name. To avoid brand confusion, it’s important to hold the digital real estate that correlates with that name across all potential TLDs.