Meta's Threads is off to a fantastic start. The new social network, which launched on Wednesday night, has already amassed more than 10 million users in seven hours, including celebrities and politicians like Oprah Winfrey and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But it's not just a friendly place to chat — it's also a direct challenge to Elon Musk's Twitter.
Threads is Meta's attempt to create “a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it,” as Mark Zuckerberg put it. The Meta CEO interacted with his followers on Threads, laughing at a comment that predicted Twitter's demise. As I reported yesterday, Threads was already available in limited access to some users before launching fully.
Advertisers are paying attention, even though they can't buy ads on Threads yet. Martin Sorrell, a veteran ad executive who runs S4 Capital, told the NY Times DealBook that Threads could be a safer and more attractive option for brands than Twitter, which has struggled with controversy and moderation issues.
Twitter's new CEO, Linda Yaccarino, joined the company last month with a mission to entice back advertisers who left after Musk took over and fired many content moderators. “Controversy is a negative and not something that brands want to deal with,” Sorrell said. Instagram head Adam Mosseri posted a video introducing Threads on the apps biggest rival platform, Twitter:
🎉 Threads 🎉
Threads is our new app, built by the Instagram team, for text updates and joining public conversations ✨
We're hoping Threads can be great space for public conversations, and we're very focused on the creator communities that already enjoy Instagram.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) July 6, 2023
Making a Direct Challenge to Twitter
Meta has its own history of privacy and data scandals, and some have already questioned how it will deal with misinformation on Threads. The company has done well to differentiate Meta from Facebook. The latter has had a multitude of issues around privacy, security, and content moderation. However, Meta has managed to keep other services such as Instagram and WhatsApp out of the Facebook dumpster fire.
This makes Threads a viable alternative to Twitter, Sorrell said. He also noted that the timing of Threads' launch, as Twitter plans to limit how many tweets users can see, is “advantageous.” Meta is also using its existing platforms and ad operations to boost Threads. The app has features from Instagram, which has about two billion monthly users.
Threads is integrated with Instagram, so users can see their Instagram followers and posts in the app. Additionally, Threads allows users to create private groups, which can be used for sharing photos, videos, and other content with a select group of people.
Musk has already hit out against the app and is unimpressed by Threads. “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram,” he tweeted.
It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram
One catch: If you want to delete your Threads account, you have to delete your Instagram account too. That could raise eyebrows at the FTC, which has vowed to crack down on firms that make it hard for users to opt out of a service. It may also ultimately put off some users who do not want to be tied to another app they may not even use.
Threads is not available everywhere. It's not in the European Union, where Meta is fighting with regulators over its data practices. And it doesn't have direct messaging or livestream features, unlike Twitter. Even so, news of Threads' debut success sent Meta's shares soaring on Thursday morning.