This photo illustration created in Washington, DC, on July 5, 2023, shows the logo for Threads, an Instagram app, reflected in the Twitter logo. - Facebook owner Meta's new Threads app, meant to compete with Twitter, was available for pre-order on mobile app stores on iPhone and Android operating systems on July 5, 2023. Image: Stefani Reynolds / AFP
Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter rival, Threads, had a record-breaking day 1, with 50 million users in 24 hours. At the time of publishing, this count had risen to 57 million, according to data platform QuiverQuant.
Meanwhile, Semafor first reported that a few hours into Threads’s launch, Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Twitter, sent Mark Zuckerberg a letter threatening legal action. The letter accuses Meta of engaging in ‘systematic, wilful and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and intellectual property’.
The letter also says that Meta has, over the past year, ‘hired dozens of former Twitter employees’ who have ‘ongoing obligations to Twitter’ and ‘continue to have access to Twitter’s trade secrets and other highly confidential information’. Twitter, over the past year, has laid off thousands of employees.
Meta’s communications director Andy Stone says the accusations are baseless. He posted on Threads: “To be clear: No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee—that’s just not a thing,” he said.
On a Twitter daily news post about the legal notice, Twitter’s owner, Elon Musk, replied, “Competition is fine, cheating is not.”
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey took a jibe at Threads too, tweeting, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 7 Twitter clones.” The comments on his post called him out for building two of those clones—Bluesky and Nostr, which he categorically shut down, saying they are ‘Not competitive’. “Bluestar and Nostr are protocols that Twitter can build upon. Would remove some constraints and burden.”
With an instant click to sign up using your Instagram account—and another to populate your feed with everyone you follow on Instagram, Threads became quick and easy to hop on board. It will, of course, have to roll out new features quickly and judiciously to maintain that momentum. While users have been largely positive about Threads (which works, looks and feels just like Twitter, and on Day 1, minus the trolls), many have noted that it is difficult to discover interesting people on the platform. On Twitter, that is easier done with following Trending topics and clicking relevant hashtags. Both of these are in the works, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri has said.
It remains to be seen whether Instagram creators will be just as engaging in text. How Meta will encourage creators to build communities beyond their Instagram fold, and how they will entice—and incentivise—the celebrated ‘Twitterati’ to truly lead in formulating thoughts and mood on the platform.
While we await longer-term data, anecdotally, engagement on Threads seems to have high potential. Twitter has, lately, been favouring paying users over others, and publishers and creators have struggled with getting returns from the platform lately.
Instagram is known for its softer side: An abundance of food, fashion, travel and cat videos. Twitter, traditionally, for its commentators on current affairs, as a place of incisive discourse and activism. In the first run, Threads has been described by users as being safe, wholesome, friendly. Are those words that can describe the world’s new town square? We’ll have to wait and watch.