Wednesday morning, the parent company of Facebook launched the latest rival to Twitter. The new app, known as ‘Threads’, has already acquired a healthy user base with over 30 million registered accounts. Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt at supplanting the legacy social media platform, which is in crisis since Elon Musk’s forcible takeover last year, is widely expected to become the most successful direct challenge to Twitter so far.
In October, billionaire innovator and the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk received the latest addition to his private business empire. Only, this time, it was an established social media company unlike the innovative tech schemes Musk had supervised so far in his career. This lack of experience, combined with Musk’s very public contempt for the platform and its administration, has resulted in chaotic mishandling of the company. Twitter lost at least half of its employees and much of its stock value, not to mention many active users.
The race to provide an alternative product to the 250 million Twitter users has so far seen limited success. Nonetheless, Meta’s latest social media project might signal a veritable demise of Twitter’s status as the favored microblogging platform of political and entertainment figures. The parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, co-founded and managed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has entered the fray with ‘Threads’, a platform closely mimicking Twitter’s functions. Just months after its development was announced, Threads launched Wednesday in over 100 countries and in 30 languages.
Threads is largely focused around short text-messages and microblogging. Although it is technically possible to post pictures and videos, a direct messaging option is as of yet unavailable. There is no limit to the number of messages posted in a ‘thread’, but one published post cannot exceed 500 characters. The application allows users to share messages via hashtags and links, similar to Twitter.
Meta has publicly portrayed Threads as a supplement to its Instagram, a video-sharing platform with over 2 billion active daily users. The aesthetic experience of Threads draws much from its sister platform, and posts can be shared directly to Instagram Stories. Most importantly, however, Instagram users can automatically register to the new app, retaining their username, password, and account name, and even receive an instant verification. As of yet, there are no advertisements on the platform.
The initial reception to Threads’ launch was enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive. Over 10 million people signed up within hours of the launch, with nearly 30 million joining by the end of the day. Despite the massive traffic it received, there were few complaints about glitches and loading delays. Many users experimented with a fresh beginning, while others hailed the project as a ‘Twitter killer’ and a healthier alternative to the increasingly-toxic online space on Musk’s platform.
While Threads reached top charts on Apple store Thursday, the new launch also received its fair share of criticism. Users noted a lack of originality and raised concerns over data privacy. Others pointed out that once an account is set, Threads does not offer any option to delete it short of deleting the affiliated Instagram account.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has amassed over a million followers on the new platform, declared: “Welcome to Threads” in his first post Wednesday. Later, the billionaire innovator stated that: “The vision for Threads is to create an option and friendly public space for conversation. We hope to take what Instagram does best and create a new experience around text, ideas, and discussing what’s on your mind.”
In one later post on the platform, however, Zuckerberg took an unusual direct jab at Musk. The two have exchanged very public insults over the past weeks and even agreed to a ‘cage fight’ at some undetermined point in the future. Reflecting this recent history, Zuckerberg said: “It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”
On the same day as the platform’s launch, Twitter reportedly threatened to sue Threads and Meta. The allegations surround the alleged theft of Twitter’s ‘trade secrets’. Meta hired many of the thousands of former Twitter employees, some of whom might have brought their experience and insights to Threads. The lawsuit is unlikely to succeed in light of similar IT precedents.