- Written by Chris Vallance and James Clayton
- Technology Reporters, BBC News
Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg said the company’s newly launched Thread app aims to outpace Twitter.
Experts say the topics may appeal to Twitter users who are unhappy with recent changes to the platform.
Threads – which haven’t been launched in the EU at this time – allow users to post up to 500 characters, and have many similar features to Twitter.
In a post, Zuckerberg said that keeping the platform “friendly… will ultimately be key to its success.”
But Twitter chief Elon Musk hit back, “It’s infinitely better to be attacked by strangers on Twitter than to indulge in false happiness on an Instagram that hides pain.”
When asked in Threads whether the app would be “bigger than Twitter,” Mr. Zuckerberg saidIt will take some time, but I think there should be a public chat app with over 1 billion people.
“Twitter had the opportunity to do this but didn’t quite get it done. Hopefully we will.”
Competitors have criticized the amount of data the app may use. This may include health and financial data, and browsing data associated with users’ identities, according to Apple’s App Store.
Themes is now available for download in over 100 countries including the UK, but not yet in the European Union due to regulatory concerns.
Zuckerberg said the app crossed 2 million sign-ups in its first two hours.
Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, described the new app as an “initial release,” with additional features planned including the ability to interact with people on other social media apps such as Mastodon.
“Our vision with Themes is to take what Instagram does best and extend it into text,” the company said ahead of its launch.
Although Themes is a standalone app, users log in with an Instagram account. It bears their Instagram username, but there is an option to customize their profile specifically for threads.
Meta says users will also be able to choose to follow the same accounts they use on Instagram. The app allows users to be private on Instagram, but public on topics.
The release of the new app follows criticism of Meta’s business practices.
Last year, Meta whistleblower Francis Haugen said the company put “dividends over safety” and criticized the way the platform was moderated.
The company has also been hit by a scandal in which it allowed third parties, including British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, to access personal data of Facebook users.
In an apparent nod to that controversial past, Musk joked Monday that “Thank God they’re running healthy.”
There are many alternatives available to Twitter, such as Bluesky and Mastodon, but those have struggled to gain traction.
Threads have a huge advantage because they are connected to Instagram and the hundreds of millions of users who are already on this platform.
In threads, posts can be shared to Instagram and vice versa and can include links, photos and videos up to five minutes long.
However, some early users on Wednesday reported problems when uploading images, hinting at teething problems.
Users see a feed of posts, which Meta calls “threads,” from people they follow as well as recommended content.
They can control who can “tag” them and filter responses to posts containing specific words.
It is also possible to unfollow, block, limit or report other profiles, and any accounts that users block on Instagram are automatically banned in threads.
While Meta emphasizes its connection to Instagram, media coverage has focused on its similarity to Twitter, with some investors calling the app a “Twitter killer”.
It was Mr. Musk’s latest attempt to get users to sign up for Twitter Blue, the platform’s subscription service.
Twitter also announced that popular user dashboard TweetDeck will default to the paywall within 30 days.
Since Mr. Musk took over, many Twitter users have publicly expressed their discontent with the platform and his oversight — citing misconduct and political views.
Last month, Mr. Musk and Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg agreed — perhaps in jest — to a cage fight, and Zuckerberg’s early posts on Thread have indicated his interest in mixed martial arts.
Although Threads will be available in the UK, it is not yet available in the EU due to regulatory uncertainty, particularly around the EU Digital Markets Act.
But the company says it is looking forward to launching in the European Union.
This law sets rules about how large companies like Meta share data between the platforms they own. Part of the problem is sharing data between Thread and Instagram.
Meta maintains that protecting privacy is fundamental to its business.
Additional reporting by Max Matza and Georges Boudin
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