Threads has seemingly changed its mind on enabling users to search for topics chronologically, with a new toggle introduced into the latest version of the app which enables you to sort search results by “Latest”, if you so choose.

Threads search filtering

As you can see in this example, you can now opt-in to having your Threads search results shown in order of date posted, which will help users keep track of real-time discussions and trends in the app.

Though it is a notable shift.

Just last month, when asked about enabling search results to be filtered by date, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri essentially ruled it out, saying that it would “create a substantial safety loophole”.

As per Mosseri:

 To clarify, having a comprehensive list of *every* post with a specific word in chronological order inevitably means spammers and other bad actors pummel the view with content by simply adding the relevant words or tags.”

That’s been a common tactic on other social apps, with spammers targeting popular hashtags and search terms with their junk, in order to get more exposure among unsuspecting users.

The Threads team had been looking to negate this, which is also why it’s still yet to add a trending topics display, as both could alter the posting incentives in the app.

Though that too looks like it could soon be coming, with app researcher Alessandro Paluzzi discovering a new “Today’s Topics” option in testing in the app.

Threads search filtering

Worth noting, too, that Threads limits topic tags to one per post for the same reason, with all of these elements potentially impacting the user experience in negative ways.

So why the backflip now?

Well, it seems like the Threads team has realized that if it wants to compete with X on real-time engagement, it needs to facilitate the discovery of such in-stream.

People go to X to get the latest insights into what’s happening, at any given moment, and that often won’t be what’s shown to them within their own feeds. Trending topics enables broader discovery in this respect, while being able to sort search results in order is also crucial for engaging with real-time events.

Which includes sports, one of the key targets for the Threads team in unseating X’s dominance.

Threads has made a big push on NBA discussion in particular, even sponsoring the recent In-Season Tournament, in order to boost brand awareness among NBA fans.

Threads NBA ad

But while NBA-related discussion is increasing in the app, staying up to date with the latest game scores is difficult, because up till now, you haven’t been able to sort the search listing to show you the latest updates.

I suspect that’s the main aim of this update, with Threads deciding that the increased risk of spam is outweighed by the benefits of being able to track events in real-time.

And it is. The capacity to stay on top of events in real-time is a fundamental driver of Twitter/X engagement, and if Threads wants to compete, it does need to facilitate this in some form.

It seems like Threads tried to find a better alternative, but has opted to provide equivalent functionality, likely with editorial insight from Meta’s team (i.e. I suspect some terms will remain unsearchable in the app for the time being).

Essentially, both of these are required changes, and it’ll be interesting to see how they impact Threads engagement moving forward.  

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