Meta takes On Twitter By Launching Rival App Threads

Meta on Wednesday unveiled an app rivaling Twitter, appearing to target users looking for an alternative to the social media platform owned — and frequently modified — by Elon Musk.

Dubbed Threads, the new offering is billed as a text-based version of Meta’s Instagram photo-sharing app, which the company says offers “a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations.”

The app is available in Apple and Android app stores — the App Store and Play Store — in more than 100 countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and Japan .

According to screenshots provided to media, users will enjoy a Twitter-like microblogging experience, suggesting that Meta Platforms prepared to directly challenge the platform after Elon’s tumultuous shareholding. Musk drove a series of unpopular changes that put off users and advertisers.

Buttons let you like, repost, comment, or quote a thread, and counters show how many likes and replies a post has received.

“Our vision is that Threads will be a new, more text- and dialogue-focused app, modeled on what Instagram did for photos and videos,” the company said.

Messages are limited to 500 characters, which is more than Twitter’s 280 character threshold, and can include links, photos and videos up to five minutes long.

Instagram users will be able to log in with their current username and follow the same accounts on the new app. New users will need to create an Instagram account.

Meta has emphasized measures to keep users safe, including enforcing Instagram’s community guidelines and providing tools to control who can mention or reply to users.

Data Privacy Concerns

Meta’s new offering has raised concerns about data privacy, however.

Threads may collect a wide range of personal information, including health, financial information, contact details, browsing history, location data, purchases and “sensitive information”, according to the app’s practices. privacy policies listed on the App Store.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, pointed this out in a sarcastic post saying “All your Threads belong to us,” along with a screenshot of the practices. Elon Musk answered “yes”.

Threads will not be deployed in the European Union (EU), which has strict data privacy rules.

Meta has informed the Irish Data Protection Commission that it does not yet intend to launch Threads in the EU-27, said Commission spokesman Graham Doyle. The Irish watchdog is Meta’s main privacy regulator in the EU, as the company’s regional headquarters are based in Dublin.

While Meta announced Threads on Apple’s UK App Store earlier this week, the app was nowhere to be found in French, German and Dutch versions. The company is working on rolling out the app to other countries, but cites regulatory uncertainty to justify its decision not to launch the app in Europe.

An uncertain success

Analysts say its success is far from guaranteed, citing Meta’s track record of launching standalone apps that were later shut down.

The question also arises as to whether this is the right move for Meta, which has announced tens of thousands of layoffs over the past year amid a slowdown in the tech industry.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also focused on the metaverse, investing tens of billions of dollars in the concept of virtual reality.

Meta risks “scattering,” said Mike Proulx, director of research at Forrester, an international market research firm. “Meta is banking on a moment when Twitter’s frustration is at its height. However, this window of opportunity is already flooded with Twitter alternatives, including Bluesky, Mastodon, Spill, Post.News, and Hive, all of which are vying for Twitter’s market share.

Even so, Threads could be a new headache for Elon Musk, who bought Twitter last year for US$44 billion.

Elon Musk has made a series of changes that have drawn backlash, the latest being a daily limit on the number of posts users can view, in an attempt to prevent unauthorized harvesting of potentially valuable data. It also requires paid verification for users to access the TweetDeck online dashboard.

The rivalry between Messrs. Musk and Zuckerberg could end up spilling over into real life. During an online exchange, the two tech billionaires seem to have agreed to a face-to-face fight, but it is unclear whether they will step into the ring.

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Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.