Meta Launches 'Threads' Application for Use on Twitter

Mark Zuckerberg has long wanted to take Twitter out and provide a central place for online public conversation. But Twitter remains irreplaceably stubborn.

That hasn't stopped Mr Zuckerberg.

On Monday, his company, Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, teased a new app aimed directly at Twitter territory.

The app, which is called Threads and is connected to Instagram, appears in Apple's App Store for users to register to download on Thursday, when it will be released. The app appears to work much like Twitter, emphasizing public conversation, with users being able to follow people they already follow on Instagram. Some engineers are calling the upcoming app a “Twitter killer”.

Mr Zuckerberg is striking while Twitter is experiencing new turmoil. Since Elon Musk bought the social platform last year, he has revamped the service by tweaking Twitter's algorithms that determine which posts get the most views, ditching content moderation rules that forbid certain types of tweets, and overhauling the verification process that confirms users' identities. .

Then over the weekend, Mr. Musk imposed a limit on how many tweets his users could read while using the app. He said the move was in response to other companies harvesting Twitter data in a process known as “scraping”. Twitter users immediately get a message that they have exceeded the “rate limit”, effectively rendering the app unusable after a short period of viewing the post. Many Twitter users have become frustrated.

“If there was ever a more self-destructive, multi-billion dollar company owner whose customer hatred defined that company's success, I didn't realize it,” Lou Paskalis, founder and chief executive officer of AJL Advisory, a marketing and advertising technology strategy firm, said of Mr. Musk and Twitter.

The latest turmoil on Twitter appears to have opened up opportunities for Mr. Zuckerberg for Threads.

Meta executives have been discussing ways to capitalize on the chaos on Twitter since last year, including by building a counter service. “Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs a comeback,” one Meta employee wrote in an internal post last year, according to a report in December by The New York Times. “LET'S GO FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER.”

That has resulted in Threads, a crash project that left Instagram and internally codenamed Project 92. Users will be able to log in to Threads using their Instagram account, according to a photo preview of the app shown on Apple's App Store.

Meta executives previously characterized the app as a “reasonably executed” version of a public-facing social network, in a not-so-subtle jab at Mr Musk's erratic behavior.

Musk and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But Threads quickly gained attention online, with Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder, tweet app data policy screenshot and Mr. Musk responded“Yes.”

A spokesperson for Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meta launched Threads while facing challenges of its own. Silicon Valley companies have invested heavily in moving into the so-called metaverse, digital immersive worlds. But the move was met with skepticism, given the metaverse is far from mainstream.

In recent months, Zuckerberg has also slashed costs at Meta and grappled with questions about whether the company is falling behind in the artificial intelligence race. In an employee meeting last month, he tried to rally the workforce by explaining last year's mass layoffs and laying out his vision for how Meta work in AI would mesh with his plans for the metaverse.

Even with the challenges, Meta remains Twitter's most credible competitor, with deep pockets and an audience of over three billion people who use Facebook, Instagram, or any other app. Other platforms trying to exploit Twitter's weaknesses — such as Tumblr, Nostr, Spill, Mastodon, and Bluesky — are all much smaller than Meta.

“Despite the decline, Facebook still has a very large user base,” said Mr. Paskalis from AJL Advisory. Its large number of users, he added, would mean that its clone application “would achieve success at the expense of Twitter”.

Facebook and Twitter have been at odds for years in trying to capture the latest online conversation. In the early days of Twitter, Mr. Zuckerberg offered to buy the company, but was turned down. Prior to the 2016 US presidential election, Facebook also made a big push to feature live products and trending topics at political events and on television.

Since then, Zuckerberg has focused efforts such as live-streaming video — an area Twitter is also pursuing — and trending hashtags to allow users to explore topics that have gone viral on Facebook and Instagram.

Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Musk may face off another way: in the ring.

The two men were discussing the possibility of sparring in a mixed martial arts match, according to Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship sports franchise. While no date has been set yet, the tech billionaire has privately stated to Mr. White that they are willing to fight each other, and a series of events takes shape.