It looks like Mark Zuckerberg and his crew at Meta wanted to fast-track their Twitter competitor just as other products like BlueSky are drawing away disgruntled Twitter users. And now the new app, called Threads, hits the App Store Thursday.
Meta likely couldn't have picked a better week in recent memory to launch a "Twitter killer" app, as it's already being called, given the major wave of fresh frustration from Twitter users following a Saturday change that drastically limits how many tweets most users can view in a day. We heard about the app two weeks ago, via a planned leak to The Verge, and the company wanted us to know it was talking to Oprah and the Dalai Lama about becoming early users.
As the New York Times reports, following a post to the Apple App Store and Google Play store on Monday, Threads goes live on Thursday, and eager Twitter fleers can sign up to be reminded to download it now. The app uses Instagram as its base but reportedly looks like Twitter in its functionality, and Instagram users will be able to immediately start following the "threads" of people they follow on Insta.
Meta Chief Product Officer Chris Cox told company employees in a presentation last month, throwing obvious shade on Elon Musk and Twitter, "We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run, that they believe that they can trust and rely upon for distribution."
And Meta has been rushing to build this app since last fall, when it was obvious that Musk was throwing Twitter into chaos and would likely, at least in the short term, lose advertisers with his unfettered-free-speech ethos. In the ensuing months, Twitter users have been free to engage in hate speech, with the theoretical moderation line only drawn at threats of violence — but how many actual people are even performing content moderation duties over there?
"Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs its mojo back," wrote one Meta employee in an internal post last fall that was seen by the Times. "LET’S GO FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER."
Indeed, the EU has created enough legal pushback about data privacy for Meta that Threads won't be launching there for a while, as TechCrunch reports. "Bringing Meta’s surveillance ads business into compliance with EU law is going to require a sea-change in how it operates — one which does not appear to be its plan with Threads," TechCrunch writes.
Threads looks and acts a lot like Twitter — people can post text or images or both, and others can repost, like, or reply — but this is pretty much just Facebook with public threads and a quicker mode of reposting, repackaged and linked heavier to Instagram, in order to attract the kids.
And this is an interesting development for Zuckerberg and Meta, after Zuck renamed the company two years ago and announced a full-court-press into the metaverse, which has not yet borne fruit. But it's the culmination of years of competition, after Zuck tried and failed to acquire Twitter back in the day, and Twitter quickly became the public "town square" that Facebook surely also wanted to be.
While Facebook may be in decline, the global user base is still massive, and Meta is betting its significant resources and the general good will toward Instagram might help it produce a "Twitter killer" once and for all.
There is a "cheat code" on Instagram — the desktop version — in which a search for "threads" will pop up a little "Admit One" ticket, which, if you click on it, brings up a QR code to scan that takes you to the download page in the App Store. This actually doesn't get you access to an early download of Threads, it just lets you sign up for an automatic download to occur on Thursday morning at 7 a.m. PT. Update: A couple of hours after signing up, the app sent a notification that it was now live, on Wednesday afternoon.
Also, that "cage match" between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk — inspired by this Threads announcement — which surely won't become a reality, remains vaguely a possibility after both men have allegedly expressed interest to Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship sports franchise. But obviously Elon doesn't have time to get trained in jiu-jitsu?