Instagram, owned by Meta Platforms Inc., has introduced Threads, a new app aimed directly at Twitter, posing a significant challenge to Elon Musk’s struggling social media platform. Threads allows users to post text, links, and interact with others by replying or reposting messages. Users can transfer their existing follower lists and account names from Instagram to Threads. Within the first four hours of its launch, the app garnered over 5 million sign-ups, according to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Meta. However, this number is still significantly lower than Twitter’s user base of over 300 million.
Zuckerberg expressed the need for a public conversations app with over a billion users, criticizing Twitter for not fulfilling this role. Influential users on Instagram have been requesting a text-based app, wanting an alternative without having to start building their following from scratch, according to Connor Hayes, Vice President of Product at Instagram.
Meta has a history of copying features from emerging internet competitors, such as Reels imitating TikTok and Stories emulating Snapchat. While Meta’s apps indirectly compete with Twitter, this is the first time the company is releasing a direct rival to the platform in the form of Threads.
The timing of Meta’s launch seems opportune, considering Twitter’s recent challenges. Since Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, the company has faced employee layoffs, content moderation policy changes, and technical difficulties for users and advertisers. Twitter’s financial situation has also been suffering, with a 50% decline in advertising revenue as reported by Musk in March.
With the introduction of Threads, Meta hopes to capitalize on Twitter’s limitations, including viewing restrictions on the number of tweets per day. Musk referred to these restrictions as temporary measures to combat data scrapers and bots. However, previous challengers to Twitter have struggled to establish large enough networks to match its reach and impact. Threads benefits from Instagram’s existing infrastructure, including content rules, controls for muting and blocking accounts, and the ability for verified Instagram accounts to retain their blue badges.
Another advantage of Threads is its compatibility with the ActivityPub social-networking protocol, enabling users to eventually interact with a broader community beyond Instagram. This makes it the first Meta app to be interoperable with competing products, although no timeline has been given for this update.
At its launch, Threads will not feature ads, as the focus is on generating excitement about the product, according to Hayes.
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