Meta on Wednesday unveiled an app that aims to compete with Twitter and is apparently aimed at users looking for an alternative to their own social media platform – and frequently changed – by Elon Musk.
The new offering, dubbed Threads, will be billed as a text-based version of Meta’s photo-sharing app Instagram, which the company says offers “a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations.”
The app went live on Apple and Google’s Android app stores in more than 100 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan, just after midnight in the UK on Wednesday. Early celebrity users include chef Gordon Ramsay, pop star Shakira, and Mark Hoyle, better known as YouTuber LadBaby.
Screenshots provided to the media show that users are getting a Twitter-like microblogging experience, suggesting that Meta Platforms prepared to challenge the platform head-on afterwards Musk’s turbulent ownership has led to a number of unpopular changes which have deterred users and advertisers.
There are buttons to like, repost, reply, or quote a “thread,” as well as counters that show the number of likes and replies a post has received.
“Our vision is that Threads will be a new app that focuses more on text and dialogue, and aligns with what Instagram has done for photos and videos,” the company said.
Posts are limited to 500 characters, which is more than Twitter’s 280 character limit, and can contain links, photos, and videos up to five minutes in length.
Instagram users can log in with their existing usernames and follow the same accounts in the new app. New users must set up an Instagram account.
Meta emphasized measures to protect users, including enforcing Instagram’s Community Guidelines and providing tools to control who can mention or reply to users.
However, Meta’s new offering has increased privacy concerns.
Threads could collect a wide range of personal information, including health, financial, contacts, browsing and search history data, location data, purchases, and “sensitive information,” according to the App Store privacy disclosure.
Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey pointed this out in a scathing tweet saying “all your threads are ours,” which included a screenshot of the reveal. Musk replied, “Yes.”
One place where threads are not introduced is the European Union, where they are strict data protection regulations.
Meta has informed the Irish Data Protection Commission that it has no plans yet to launch threads in the 27-nation bloc, commission spokesman Graham Doyle said. The Irish regulator is Meta’s main data protection authority for the EU as the company’s regional headquarters are in Dublin.
While Meta had annoyed Threads with a listing in Apple’s UK App Store Earlier this week it could not be found in either the French, German or Dutch versions. The company is working to roll out the app in more countries, but cites regulatory uncertainty as the reason for its decision to delay the launch in Europe.
Analysts said success was far from guaranteed, citing Meta’s track record of launching standalone apps that were later discontinued.
It is also questionable whether it is the right move for Meta that has announced Tens of thousands of layoffs last year amid a slowdown in the tech industry.
So was CEO Mark Zuckerberg Focusing on the Metaversewho invested tens of billions of dollars in the virtual reality concept.
Meta is in danger of “spreading too far,” said Mike Proulx, director of research at Forrester, a global market research firm. “Meta bets on a moment amidst Twitter’s greatest frustration. However, this time slot is already flooded with Twitter alternatives, including Blue sky, mastodon, SpillPost.News and Hive, all competing for Twitter’s market share.”
Still, Threads could be another headache for Musk, who acquired Twitter for $44 billion last year.
He’s made a number of changes that have drawn backlash, most recently on a daily basis Limiting the number of tweets people can see to try to prevent unauthorized scraping of potentially valuable data. It also now requires paid verification for users to access the TweetDeck online dashboard.
Musk’s rivalry with Zuckerberg could end spill over into real life. In an online exchange, the two tech billionaires apparently agreed to a cage duel, although it’s unclear if they’ll actually make it in the ring.