Meta, the official owner of Facebook and Instagram, have today (6 July) launched Threads, a new app which the company chief Mark Zuckerberg describes as a “friendly” rival to Twitter. It will be a text-based platform on which users can publish posts that can be liked, shared, or replied to, with the vision for the app – according to statements released by the firm – being to “take what Instagram does best and expand that to text.”
Threads is now available to download in over 100 countries, but not yet in the EU, due to concerns over regulatory issues and early reports are that over ten million users signed up in the first seven hours, following its launch. It has already been recognised that this new app has a huge opening advantage due to its connection to Instagram, and the hundreds of millions of users that it brings, because although Threads will be a stand-alone app, the users can log in using an Instagram account, with the option to customize profiles specifically for the new app, if preferred.
Industry experts believe this could be the greatest threat to Twitter so far, with a real possibility that droves of its users could move across, after being left disgruntled by what they see as harsh changes to that platform, introduced by controversial owner Elon Musk, who only bought the site last October, for $44bn. His early response was a veiled swipe at his rival Zuckerberg, saying: “Thank goodness they’re so sanely run”.
Similar but “friendlier”
Threads will permit users to post up to 500 characters, and has many features similar to Twitter, but what is crucial is whether it can achieve what Mr Zuckerberg says is the key to its long-term success, and that is to keep it friendly. The multi-billionaire owner said: “It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with more than a billion people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it; so hopefully we will.”
Personal info collected
On the new app it will be possible to share posts to Instagram and vice versa, which can include links, photos, and videos of up to five minutes in length. Users will see a feed of posts, which Meta are calling “threads” – hence the name – from people they already follow, together with recommended content.
However, with it being a Meta app, it will also hoover up data including location, past purchases and browsing history, which as always raises concerns, with competitors predictably critical.
In the “Data Linked to You” section on the App Store, Threads does state that they may collect your financial info, contact info, user content, browsing history, usage data, purchases, contacts, identifiers, sensitive info, location, search history and other data, so in that respect they have covered their backs. It basically is up to the individual user as to whether that creates an issue.
There is no doubt that having access to more than two billion monthly active Instagram users will be massively advantageous for Threads. The restrictions in place currently in the EU and centred around the Digital Markets Act, are disappointing for Meta they admit, but they are hopeful of an early solution and maintain that privacy is fundamental to its business.
Difficult times for Twitter
The launching of Threads comes at a difficult time for Twitter and Mr Musk, who made the decision shortly after his take-over, to restructure the company, by first of all sacking thousands of its staff and then placing many of its features behind a subscription paywall.
Then, in the past few weeks he introduced restrictions on the number of tweets the platform’s users could see, referring to “data scraping and system manipulation” as his reason behind the move. He attempted to justify his actions by explaining that the decision was to “limit the use of the social network’s data by third parties, in particular companies feeding artificial intelligence models.”
Backlash could see a procession of leavers
Mr Musk has said openly in the past how much he hates advertising, yet ironically he bought a company which exists fundamentally through its reliance on third party advertising. He has faced a fierce backlash and the fact that Threads will seemingly be a free service, with no restrictions, could very well see many of its users jump ship and go across to what they may determine as a better option.
Mr Zuckerberg will certainly be hoping so, and although it wasn’t planned to co-inside with problems at his rival’s platform, he will be delighted at the timing of the launch and optimistic of enticing many Twitter users across.
Zuckerberg lands blow, how will Musk respond?
Only last month the two mega-rich owners agreed – although possibly not seriously – to a cage fight; but for now the combat continues out of the ring.
It seems Zuckerberg has made a good start to the latest round, with a “sharp uppercut” which his opponent might claim to be “below the belt”, and could be said to have left him “picking up the threads!”
Long term, it remains to be seen who can land the “knock-out blow”.