The Thread: What To Know About Instagram's 'Twitter Killer' App

After months of speculation and secrecy, the long-rumored Mark Zuckerberg competitor app for Twitter is here.

The new app, Threads, launched on Wednesday as a companion to Instagram, the popular photo-sharing network that Mr. Zuckerberg, Meta, more than a decade ago. If Instagram executives are successful, Threads will also replace rival Twitter, with some techies calling it a “Twitter killer”.

The launch of Threads increases the competition between Mr. Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, who bought Twitter last year. Mr. Musk has transformed the Twitter experience by tweaking algorithms and other features, and recently imposed temporary limits on how many tweets people can read while using the app, sparking outrage.

Many tech companies have tried to capitalize on the Twitter frenzy in recent months. But Threads has the edge, backed by Meta's deep pockets and Instagram's massive user base of over two billion monthly active users worldwide.

In a post to his Threads account on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said: “I think there should be a public chat app with over 1 billion people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but has not been successful. Hopefully we will.” He said that Threads hit 10 million sign-ups within seven hours of launch.

Mr Musk weighed in, saying he was not impressed with Threads and claiming he had canceled his Instagram account. “Better to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than to indulge in Instagram fake happiness hiding pain,” he wrote on Twitter. Twitter.

Here's what to know about Threads.

Built by Instagram, Threads is positioned as an app where people can have real-time public conversations with one another. Threads also help improve Instagram, which is the marquee app in the Meta product suite.

“The idea is to build a space that is open and welcoming to the community,” said Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, in an interview.

Instagram has tied Threads tightly to itself. Those interested in signing up for the new app are required to have an Instagram account for now. The user's Instagram handle must also be their Thread username.

And people will be able to directly import the list of people they follow on Instagram into Threads if they wish. Instagram verified users will also be verified in the new app. Users can set their Thread account to be private or public.

Threads looks almost identical to Twitter in many ways. Users can post mostly text-based messages to a scrolling feed, where people who follow them and those they follow can reply. People can also post photos or videos to the app.

But Threads are also different from Twitter. It does not currently support direct messages, a feature Twitter offers. Instagram says it will add the feature to Threads if new users request it.

Instagram has made a concerted effort to simplify its app over the past few years, said Mosseri. As part of that effort, he said, Threads was split up into a separate app. That way, Instagram won't mess too much with trying to make public conversations work within its existing app.

The option to create a new application is also hard to refuse, added Mr. Mosseri, especially at a tumultuous time in the social media landscape.

“There is an opportunity or demand for more people to play in public spaces,” he said referring to the changes surrounding Twitter under Mr. Musk. Mr Mosseri added that the opportunity to challenge Twitter arose “not just because of ownership, but because of product changes and decisions” Mr Musk and others have made about how the social platform works.

Instagram began its attempt to take on Twitter late last year, with dozens of engineers, product managers and designers pitching ideas for what the rival app might look like. Among the ideas Meta workers were talking about at the time was the broader rollout of a feature called Instagram Notes, where people can share short messages on the site, and a text-focused app using Instagram technology.

Ultimately, Mr Mosseri said, he and other managers decided they had to “gamble” on the messaging app and leaned in to build what became Threads.

Instagram's goal is to get Threads to work across multiple apps in what it calls Fediverse, which is short for a federated world of services that share communication protocols. Other apps like Mastodon, other social networks, also work this way.

This may sound like a lot of tech talk. What this means is that, fundamentally, Instagram wants to make it easier for Threads to interoperate seamlessly with other platforms, which can appeal to content creators and influencers so they don't have to start from scratch on every app.

If a content creator builds a large number of followers on Threads, for example, they can ostensibly take those followers to other platforms built with the same technology. That would reduce risk for creators and could free them from feeling like they're “stuck” on one platform, said Mr. Mosseri.

Meta Mr Zuckerberg, who also owns Facebook and WhatsApp, has an extensive history of trying to eradicate social media rivals, in part by copying their features. Mr. Zuckerberg is fiercely competitive and has long wanted to have a product that fulfills what Twitter does.

The strategy does not always guarantee success. Facebook's initial attempt to clone instant messaging app Snapchat, for example, did not gain much traction at first.

Even so, Meta continues to emulate rivals. In 2020, Meta released a TikTok imitator called Reels, which focuses on short videos and has been widely used ever since.

The thread is available to download for free from Apple's App Store and Google Play store in the United States and about 100 other countries starting Wednesday. It has plans to expand further.

But Meta says Threads won't initially be available in the European Union, one of the company's biggest markets. A new EU law called the Digital Markets Act comes into force in the coming months and limits how the biggest technology companies share data across services. Meta says it's waiting to get more specific about the law's implementation before introducing Threads across the 27-country block.

Adam Satriano reporting contribution.