Meta’s new app Threads saw an explosion of new users in its first few days, unmatched by any other company aiming to rival struggling social media platform Twitter—or almost any app in the past decade. Threads is believed to have signed up more than 100 million users in less than five days, according to data from Quiver Quantitative.
Within two hours of its launch late July 5, 2 million people had already downloaded the app, widely seen as a copycat to Twitter. The Verge reported that by early July 6, users had already posted more than 95 million posts and 190 million likes, citing internal company data. By the morning of July 7, sign-ups had surpassed 70 million, a figure CEO Mark Zuckerberg said was “way beyond our expectations.”
The company’s early success has not been lost on Twitter and its owner, Elon Musk, who took to the platform to criticize the app on Thursday evening. Twitter’s legal team quickly threatened legal action over Threads, reportedly alleging in a letter that Meta had engaged in “unlawful misappropriation” of its trade secrets.
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Who has joined threads?
According to data provided to TIME by Sensor Tower and data.ai, Threads was the most downloaded non-game app on a launch day in the past decade. As of July 6 it had amassed approximately 40 million worldwide downloads, according to Sensor Tower. While data.ai says Nintendo’s Mario Kart Tour was the fastest-ever growing app, Threads came in second and its launch outpaced those of popular apps like Pokemon GO and Call of Duty Mobile. Zuckerberg reported that Threads reached 30 million users in less than 24 hours. By comparison Instagram took 15 months to reach 30 million downloads, while TikTok reached the milestone in just under two years, according to data.ai. (ChatGPT’s app, released at the end of last year, is just shy of 18 million downloads, data.ai says.) But the early numbers are still dwarfed by the 368 million users who visit Twitter daily, according to the Business of Apps.
A major part of the platform’s appeal is the fact that for many, the communities they’ve built online are readily accessible—users are able to easily sign up through their existing Instagram accounts and transfer over their following from photo-based app. In addition, a large number of prominent accounts received early access to Threads to help populate the platform ahead of its launch. Early adopters included public figures like Bill Gates, Shakira and Oprah Winfrey, along with brands like Netflix.
The success of Threads
Meta already has a lot of the social media infrastructure in place and being a household name gives it a headstart. “It’s an advantage to be associated with a big brand,” Darrell West, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, told TIME previously. “Threads is not going to be a niche player.”
Threads is already having a nostalgic effect. Some users have compared the experience on the app to Twitter in its early days.
It remains to be seen if Thread’s success will continue, Kevin Driscoll, assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Department of Media Studies, told TIME. “Some of the problems that have come up with both Twitter and Facebook, and are kind of endemic to these highly centralized platforms, [are that] their main focus is growth and scale and early user acquisition, and so there isn’t as much talk about long term sustainability.”
The app is still lacking some key features, such as a search function, hashtags, and a following feed. The company received some pushback for a policy that would require users trying to delete their Threads account to also delete their Instagram profile. Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s chief technology officer, said in a Threads post that the company is working on fixing it.
Meta also faces a challenge rolling Threads out in European Union countries due to regulatory concerns. The region is a big market for Meta. Europe accounted for roughly 22% of Meta’s $28 billion in advertising revenue during the first quarter of 2023, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Amid the app’s early success, Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, did not shy away from taking swipes at Threads’ main competitor. In a post, Zuckerberg said Threads would be “focusing on kindness”, something he implied had been missing on Twitter. “That’s one reason why Twitter never succeeded as much as I think it should have, and we want to do it differently,” he said.
The new app has been billed by many as a “Twitter-killer”, a threat to X-Corp, the company Musk created and merged with Twitter earlier this year, that it has not been taking lightly. Just hours after Thread’s launch, X-Corp’s legal team sent a letter to Zuckerberg– expressing “serious concerns that Meta has engaged in systematic, will, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property” Semafor reported on Thursday.
In response, a Meta spokesperson reportedly posted: “No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing.”
In a series of Tweets Thursday night, Musk criticized the app, calling it a “closed source, algorithm-only system,” implying that could mean that the “manipulation of what information people see is essentially undetectable.” Replying to a Tweet about Meta’s social media dominance, he wrote that “Any social media monopoly is despair.”
For now, Meta is riding a win that follows a string of high-profile scandals and missteps in recent years, including mass layoffs and criticism from activists and regulators over how the company failed to protect users from harms on its platforms and mishandled user data.
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