Threads app surges to 10M users, Zuckerberg says of Twitter rival

Instagram’s answer to Twitter, the Threads app, attracted 10 million sign-ups in its first seven hours online, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said early Thursday, positioning the new platform as a clear rival to Elon Musk’s embattled company.

“It’ll take some time, but I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it,” Zuckerberg said on the app Wednesday night. “Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully, we will.”

The launch of Meta’s free app comes as Twitter, which has been dramatically transformed by Musk since he purchased it last year, introduced “emergency” measures to limit users’ experience on the platform.

Within hours of the Threads launch, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez, Jack Black, Kylie Minogue, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gwen Stefani, Noah Beck and Shakira were among the artists and media personalities to join. Republican presidential hopeful Mike Pence, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has criticized Twitter under Musk’s leadership, were among the first politicians to sign up. “May this platform have good vibes, strong community, excellent humor and less harassment,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

In its first hours, the app appeared to function similarly to Twitter. Users shared posts — or “threads” — with inspirational memes, late-night thoughts and sarcastic quips. One joked, “babe wake up another app to doomscroll on just dropped,” using a term popularized during the pandemic for the excessive consumption of negative posts on one’s phone.

Although Threads developers are eager to distinguish it from Twitter, the apps share many functional similarities. Like Twitter, Threads is focused on text posts, limiting each to 500 characters. Users can also tag one another using the @ symbol, as well as reply to and “repost” a thread. Unlike Twitter, however, the current version of Threads does not have a direct message function.

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An early advantage for Threads is the app’s links to Instagram, giving it an easy-to-reach, built-in potential user base. Threads users can log in with one click using their Instagram credentials and are immediately given the option to carry over their existing username and follow some or all of the same accounts.

The sign-up figures shared by Zuckerberg overnight would mean Threads was attracting more than 1 million new users per hour, although The Washington Post could not immediately authenticate how many of the sign-ups were made by real people. The app’s quick growth — building off Instagram’s established success — suggests that Threads has quickly positioned itself as a top contender against Twitter. Other would-be rivals to Musk’s platform, such as Mastodon and Bluesky, have yet to grow beyond single-digit millions of users — although a key test for Threads will be its ability to retain the loyalty and attention of its curious new users in the coming days weeks.

As millions of users signed up, there also appeared to be a glitch with Zuckerberg’s own profile — which some users, including reporters at The Post, were unable to view either on the app or in their web browsers. A spokesman at Meta could not immediately confirm whether the platform was experiencing a technical problem early Thursday but said he would look into it.

In a Wednesday blog post, Meta said Threads was rolled out in more than 100 countries. But it is not available for download in the European Union, where Meta was recently fined $1.3 billion for breaching data privacy rules. The bloc’s recent Digital Markets Act also calls into question some of the firm’s data-sharing practices.

Some critics, including Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who now helps run Bluesky, pointed to the lengthy list of personal data to which Threads users are asked to grant Instagram access. The information includes a user’s health and fitness data, search history, contacts and browsing history, according to its profile on Apple’s App Store.

Throughout its launch, Meta has billed Threads as a positive space where users can “tune out” the noise. “We are definitely focusing on kindness and making this a friendly place,” Zuckerberg said late Wednesday.

In a blog post the same day, the social media giant said it would apply the same content guidelines on its new app as those it enforces on Instagram, where hate speech, harassment and content that degrades or shames private individuals is prohibited. The profiles of all users under 16 will be made private by default, it added.

Over at Twitter, Musk attacked Instagram for promoting what he called fake positivity, appearing to lean into the contrast. “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram,” he wrote on Twitter late Wednesday.

In March, an analysis by The Post found that Twitter’s algorithms were amplifying hateful and extremist content to users on their “For You” pages, despite Musk’s pledge not to boost hate speech.

Meta’s Threads launch coincides with the tail end of a rocky week for Twitter. Over the weekend, Musk announced that the platform would temporarily limit the number of tweets that users could read per day and unveiled a “temporary emergency measure” preventing users who aren’t logged in from viewing tweets on the platform’s web browser. He said the moves were meant to prevent third-party programs from combing the platform for data.

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