Featured Article : Millions Sign Up To Meta’s ‘Threads’ Twitter Competitor

12th July 2023

Following the release of Meta’s alternative platform to Twitter called ‘Threads’, Meta’s head, Mark Zuckerberg, reports 100 million signups to the new platform in its first five days.

What Is Threads? 

The Threads app, launched by Meta on 6 June, is a “text-based conversation app” that is a direct competitor to Twitter – it looks remarkably similar to Twitter and functions in a very similar way.

Threads – Available Via Instagram Login 

The fact that the app is from Meta and available via Instagram (and was developed by the Instagram team) which has over a billion users means that it has instantly become a serious competitor to the troubled Twitter.

To use Threads, Instagram users use their normal Instagram account to log in and their Instagram username and verification is carried over, with the option to customise their profile after specifically for Threads. The app is available for iOS and Android and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

In what appears to be a little swipe at Twitter, Meta says Threads will “enable positive, productive conversations” and posts can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length. Users can share a Threads post to their Instagram story or share their post as a link on any other platform they choose.

Available in 100+ Countries But Not In The EU 

Threads has been launched in 100+ countries but Meta has decided not to make it available in EU countries due to what it describes as the “complexities” of trying to comply with new laws coming in next year. This appears to be a reference to the Digital Markets Act.

30+ Million In The First Day  

Meta’s head, Mark Zuckerberg reported that more than 10 million users had signed up to the Threads “initial version” within the first seven hours of its release, more than 30 million had signed up before the end of the first day, and a staggering 100 million had signed up in the first five days! (a faster sign-up rate that ChatGPT).

Zuckerberg has great ambitions for the app which he sees as a “friendly” alternative to Twitter, stating that it could become a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it and that “Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”

Launched As Twitter Is Struggling 

Seen a as part of the latest rivalry between Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter owner Elon Musk (in June, Elon Musk challenged Mark Zuckerberg on social media to “a cage match” fight), the Threads app has been launched at a time when Twitter is seen by many to be in a weakened position.

Why Is Twitter Looking Weak? 

Since Musk took over Twitter and tried to produce more revenue streams from it than just advertising, avoid bankruptcy (something Musk said publicly could happen), and turn Twitter into a ‘super-app’, several events, and comments have led to bad publicity and appeared to be unpopular with Twitter users and advertisers. For example:

– Musk’s $44 billion takeover led to ultimatum’s being given to staff over committing to new working conditions, mass job cuts – Twitter slashed roughly 50 per cent of its workforce (reports showed Musk’s leadership sacking an estimated 80 per cent of contract employees without formal notice).

– Twitter top executives getting sacked, e.g. Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadd.

– Fears that Twitter could change for the worse under Musk’s ownership, i.e. reinstating unpopular banned users and controversial figures and allowing the wrong kind of ‘free speech’ (former US President Trump, who’d been previously banned was invited back – an offer he declined).

– Thousands of (outsourced) content moderators were dropped, leading to fears of a drop in quality and possible rise of misinformation.

– The Blue service/Blue Tick service, a way to generate new revenue and tackle the problem of fake / bot accounts, and parody accounts led to a wave of blue tick verified (yet fake) accounts impersonating influential brands and celebrities tweeting fake news plus having to be suspended and removed. Also, there was confusion over the introduction of new grey “official” badges instead of blue ticks on some high-profile accounts, which were then suddenly scrapped, also reports that US far-right activists have been able to purchase Twitter blue ticks.

– Elon Musk announcing that all but “exceptional” Twitter employees need to come back to working in the office for at least 40 hours per week or their resignation would be accepted.

– Twitter users leaving the platform in protest over Musk’s ownership and moving to competing, and decentralised social network ‘Mastodon’, Donald Trumps ‘Truth Social’, Discord, Hive Social, and Post.

– America’s Federal Trade Commission warning that “no chief executive or company is above the law,” fears over Twitter’s approach to security, and questions about this in relation to possible Saudi involvement in the Twitter takeover.

– Reports of Apple and Google threatening to drop Twitter from their app stores (denied by Musk).

– Apple and Amazon (major sources of advertising revenue for Twitter) stopping (which some deny about Amazon) and then resuming advertising on Twitter following a reported meeting between Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook at Apple HQ over the “misunderstanding.”

– Twitter losing more than 50 per cent of its advertising partners and a number of large companies pausing advertising on Twitter since Musk’s takeover, e.g. General Mills Inc, Audi, Volkswagen, General Motors, and more.

– Reports (Mikmak) of Twitter suffering a massive 68 per cent drop in media traffic (the number of times people click on an ad).

– Many high-profile celebrities publicly leaving/announcing they were leaving Twitter since Musk’s takeover, e.g. Elton John, Jim Carrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and more.

– A storm of criticism following Elon Musk’s threatening to turn off SMS 2FA after 20 March 2023 unless users paid for Blue Tick.

– Microsoft dropping Twitter from its advertising platform following Twitter’s announcement that it would charge a minimum of $42,000 per month to enterprise users of its API.

– Following a vote by Twitter users for him to resign, Elon Musk saying he may step down as head of Twitter the end of this year.

Most Recently…. 

Some other controversial moves very recently include:

– In response to alleged “data scraping” (perhaps a reference to Microsoft allegedly using Twitter’s data), and “system manipulation”, Twitter is limiting how many tweets users can read daily – verified 6,000 posts, unverified 600. In contrast, Meta has said there are no restrictions on how many posts users of Threads can see. The restrictions on how many posts Twitter users could read led to problems as angry TweetDeck users reported issues such as notifications and entire columns failing to load.

– As part of a “temporary emergency measure” against data scraping by companies (e.g. perhaps OpenAI using Twitter data to train), anyone wanting to view any Twitter content will need a login or will need to sign up, which could be inconvenient to web users and could affect search engine results.

Meta Not Without Its Own Bad Publicity 

That said, although Twitter doesn’t appear to be having its finest hour, in the interest of fairness it’s worth remembering that Meta/Facebook has faced its own worries with users such as trust issues over data sharing with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook being used to spread disinformation in the US election and UK Brexit campaigns, plus issues about user safety on its platform (hate speech, damaging content, and more).

Twitter Threatens Legal Action 

Towards the end of the first day of the release of Threads, Twitter threatened to take legal action against Meta with Twitter’s attorney Alex Spiro sending a letter to Mark Zuckerberg accusing Meta of “systematic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” in the creation of Threads. Musk said, “competition is fine, cheating is not”. Meta denied any wrongdoing and denied claims that ex-Twitter staff helped create the rival app.

Big Plans – Striking While The Iron’s Hot 

Meta clearly plans to push forward more and give the Threads app maximum reach and clout, saying that it is working to make Threads compatible with the open, interoperable social networks – making it “compatible with ActivityPub, the open social networking protocol” (from the W3C). This could also make Threads interoperable with other ActivityPub-supporting apps like Mastodon and WordPress, and Tumblr in the future.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

Meta seems to have chosen the right moment and used the huge leverage and reach it has (via Instagram) to launch an app to compete head-on, and perhaps with more success than others, with Twitter. The fact that Twitter is undergoing a crisis of funding and unhappiness among many customers and continuing issues under Musk, who also appears to be involved in personal rivalry with Meta’s head Mark Zuckerberg, while there have been 30+ million plus sign-ups in one day and 100 million sign-ups in just five days could mean that Twitter is now facing a very serious extra challenge from a credible, strong competitor. With Instagram having an estimated 1.3 billion users worldwide and Twitter having 353 million users, if even one-third of Instagram users signed up to Threads it would dwarf Twitter (10 per cent of the number of Twitter users signed up to Threads in the first day!) and some are predicting that Threads could even kill off Twitter.

Musk’s language lately has contained many references to suing people who take things from Twitter, e.g. data, and his public rivalry with Zuckerberg has intensified, and one could be forgiven for thinking that Musk may have got wind of what was coming with Threads. In the legal letter from Twitter to Zuckerberg, the accusation that ex-Twitter staff worked on Threads is interesting because there may well have been many disgruntled Twitter staff who were ousted unceremoniously when Musk took over and it’s conceivable that they could have gone across to Meta.

For users, the fact that Threads is from Meta, is easy to sign up to, and free, doesn’t have some of the limitations and restrictions of Twitter, appears to be making it look like a viable alternative. This is also unwelcome news for other Twitter alternative platforms, e.g. Mastodon, Discord, Hive Social, and more who will also see Threads as a serious competitor. For business advertisers, Threads may provide another good opportunity to reach customers, plus advertisers, celebrities, and influencers may also value the chance to use another platform that gives them the reach while escaping any negative connotations of things Musk may have said, done, or introduced, e.g. problems over the Blue Tick scheme or sharing a platform with those whose ‘free speech’ may not be compatible with their thinking and brand image. Signing up to (and switching across to) Threads may also simply give many people an opportunity to feel that they’re ‘sticking it’ to Musk – who many see as a controversial figure.