Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, dealt another blow to Elon Musk on Wednesday with the launch of Threads, a companion service to Instagram that poses a challenge to Twitter. Within four hours of its release, Threads garnered 5 million sign-ups.
Similar to Twitter, the app allows users to post short text messages that can be liked, reposted, and replied to. However, it lacks direct messaging capabilities. Posts on Threads can contain up to 500 characters, along with links, photos, and videos up to five minutes long.
The app is available in over 100 countries on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Analysts speculate that Threads' association with Instagram could provide it with a pre-established user base and advertising infrastructure, potentially diverting advertising revenue from Twitter at a time when the company is striving to revive its struggling business under new leadership. While Threads functions as a standalone app, users can log in using their Instagram credentials and follow the same accounts, making it a seamless addition for Instagram's 2 billion monthly active users.
Investors are intrigued by the possibility of Meta having a "Twitter-Killer," as reflected in the 3% increase in Meta stock before the app's launch, outperforming competitor tech companies despite a decline in the broader market.
The release of Threads coincides with a period of turmoil for Twitter, driven by Elon Musk's erratic decision-making, which has resulted in a significant decline in its value and an exodus of advertisers. To address these challenges, Zuckerberg stated in Threads posts that he believes there should be a public conversations app with over 1 billion users, highlighting Twitter's failure to achieve this and expressing hope that Threads will succeed.
The integration of Threads with Instagram emphasizes privacy considerations, giving users the option to display or hide a badge on their Instagram profile and allowing different privacy settings for each app. Various brands, including Billboard, HBO, NPR, and Netflix, as well as celebrities like Shakira and former Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, swiftly set up accounts on Threads. Notably, the app did not display any advertisements during a Reuters review.
Meta has been actively engaging social media influencers to promote Threads and encouraging them to post at least twice a day. While several platforms, such as Mastodon, Post, Truth Social, and T2, have attempted to attract Twitter users, they have yet to gain significant traction. Bluesky, a new service supported by Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, launched its invite-only beta in February and reported 50,000 users as of April. However, Meta has faced challenges with previous attempts to launch standalone copycat apps, such as Lasso, which aimed to compete with TikTok but was ultimately unsuccessful. Meta has since integrated short video functionality directly into Instagram through Reels and downscaled its experimental app design unit as part of cost-cutting measures.
One potential obstacle for Threads is the difference in culture between Twitter, which focuses on news-oriented content, and Instagram, which is more visually-oriented. Meta has recently shifted away from news and political content on its platforms and emphasized lighter content in Reels videos.
Nevertheless, Jasmine Enberg, a principal analyst at Insider Intelligence, suggests that Meta only needs to attract a quarter of Instagram's user base to rival Twitter's size. She also notes that Meta does not necessarily have to convert power users from Twitter to Threads to succeed.
Responding to a user who predicted Twitter's downfall shortly after the launch of Threads, Zuckerberg advised patience, stating that it is still early in the game.