Meta launches Instagram Threads, its Twitter rival
Meta's clone of Twitter launched Wednesday evening and was made available in the Apple iOS App Store at 7:00 pm E.T.
The big picture: Mark Zuckerberg's bargain is to offer you a cleaner version of Twitter — "sharing with text" — in exchange for handing over more data.
- Twitter owner Elon Musk challenged Zuckerberg to a literal cage match in June, and the launch of Threads represents a sort of digital cage match.
Why it matters: Threads is not innovative, but it’s smart.
- Meta has achieved massive success buying up and borrowing ideas from elsewhere. Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram are its most notable successes.
- Now the playbook is being used to claim a potentially lucrative market from Musk, who’s severely annoyed both users and advertisers since taking ownership of the platform in late 2022.
Driving the news: Just four hours after making the app available in the Apple App Store, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on the app that more than 5 million people had signed up for Threads.
The details: The new app allows existing Instagram users to use their login credentials to log into Threads.
- As with Instagram, Threads users can follow friends and creators with shared interests — including the accounts and content they already follow on Instagram.
- Everyone who joins Threads who is under 16 in the U.S. will have their account set to private by default.
- Thread users can share posts up to 500 characters long, in addition to links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length.
Between the lines: Meta's move is both an admission of defeat — it's not a metaverse play, after all — and a product with a high chance of business success.
- Threads takes the sales pitch of Twitter's new CEO Linda Yaccarino — that she's a safe pair of hands for your advertising dollars — and offers the advertisers the ability to target Facebook, Instagram and Threads users under one roof.
By the numbers: Twitter has never been a good business by the standards of other leading platforms and social media sites.
- Instagram and Facebook are each set to rake in more than $50 billion in revenue in 2023.
- Twitter lost money in 2020 and 2021, and its revenue is set to plummet through 2023 to around $3 billion. The company has never turned an annual profit greater than $1.5 billion.
Yes, but: While some will find it convenient to take up Meta's offer to enjoy the same Instagram and Threads account handles, others will prefer to keep work and play separate.
- Meta isn't planning to launch Threads in Europe — limiting its ability to leverage global scale to squeeze Twitter.
- Europe is the second most lucrative global market after the U.S., but data sharing between Threads and Instagram creates regulatory issues in the EU.
- Both Meta and Twitter will continue to struggle with misinformation and election-related issues, including because of layoffs — though Meta has more experience and staff on hand through the 2024 elections.
The intrigue: Many self-appointed Big Tech skeptics and proponents of a decentralized web have already bolted to other start-up Twitter rivals: Mastodon and Blue Sky.
- While that cutting-edge crowd is unlikely to find Threads appealing, Meta doesn’t need them to turn a profit.
Quick take: Meta is aiming for something in between LinkedIn and Twitter as a place for you to share your views with the world.
- Watch for zombie accounts: As users figure out which platform they prefer for news and conversation, they may neglect rather than shut down their older profiles.
The bottom line: Twitter was for a few years the global town square. But those days are over.
- Whatever business success Threads achieves, it’s unlikely to capture that old Twitter zeitgeist.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say that Musk challenged Zuckerberg to a cage match, not the other way around. The story has also been updated with additional details.