A new app billed as a rival to Twitter has seen more than 10 million people sign up in its first few hours, according to Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg. Threads, created by Facebook and Instagram owners Meta, went live in the UK at midnight on Thursday.
The launch of the platform was brought forward by 15 hours and made freely available in 100 countries but it is not yet available in the EU due to regulatory concerns. Linked to Instagram, it allows users to post up to 500 characters of text and up to five minutes of video and links, as well as pictures.
Chef Gordon Ramsay, pop star Shakira and Mark Hoyle, better known as the YouTuber LadBaby, have already joined and made their presence on the app known. The launch comes against a backdrop of turbulence at Twitter, after it imposed tweet viewing limits at the weekend in a move Elon Musk’s social media firm partly blamed on data harvesting by companies building artificial intelligence models.
Many users have publicly expressed frustrations with Twitter since Mr Musk took over, partly linked to political views and erratic behaviour, as well as efforts to push more users towards its paid-for Twitter Blue service. Posting on the new app under the username zuck and using a “mind blown” emoji, Mr Zuckerberg wrote: “10 million sign up in seven hours.”
He said earlier: “I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will.”
The platform is directly linked with Instagram, which has more than two billion users. Twitter is estimated to have over 350 million users. Mr Zuckerberg suggested that Threads would be a more wholesome alternative to Twitter.
In the UK, all users under 18 will be defaulted onto a private profile when they join. Someone’s feed on the app includes threads from people they follow as well as recommended content from creators they have not yet heard of.
Threads posts can be shared on a user’s Instagram story and as a link on other platforms. People can control who mentions them and who can reply to them on the new app, replies to threads containing specific words can be filtered out and other users can be unfollowed, blocked, restricted and reported.
Any accounts a user has blocked on Instagram will automatically be blocked on the new app and Instagram’s safety guidelines will be enforced on the new platform, Meta said. Eventually, the California-based company wants it to be possible for people without a Threads account to interact on the platform, which it hopes will usher in a “new era of diverse and interconnected networks”.
If and when this happens, if a user has a public profile their posts will be accessible from other apps while if they have a private one they will have to approve new followers.
The arrival of the new app comes after Twitter announced TweetDeck is to become the next part of the company to be limited to users who have paid for verified status. Two days earlier, Mr Musk announced non-verified users would be limited to reading just 1,000 posts a day.
Experts have had their say on Threads, whether it will work, the dangers and what you need to know:
Daniel Smith, director at London-based marketing agency, Doogheno: "After agreeing to a cage fight with Musk, Zuckerberg has come out fighting with his Twitter clone, Threads, and has landed the first punch. His timing couldn’t be better. The Twitter community has grown tired of Musk’s antics very quickly, and for many last weekend, the rate limiting of Tweets that can be viewed might just be the final straw. Alternative platforms like Mastodon are too complicated for many people to switch, but Threads is simple to use. And with Instagram having 2 billion accounts, four times the size of Twitter’s user base, it’s very possible that Twitter’s days may be coming to an end. If Musk continues to play to the far right, hiding behind his flag of free speech, then now the grown-ups have somewhere else to play. Zuckerberg has a history of taking new services to the mass market quickly and making a success of them. It’s too early to know if this punch is a knockout, but it will have definitely bloodied Musk’s nose."
Jessica Ross, CEO at Smashtag Social: “Threads may be the shiny new toy that everyone wants to play with, but don't overlook the details. If you ever want to delete your Threads account then you have to delete your Instagram account, too. What Meta have done is outlandishly incredible really. They’ve created a platform that hoovers up your data, while making you a hostage who’s unable to do anything about it.”
Lee Petts, founder at Preston-based marketing agency, Fifty2M: “If it wasn't already clear that Threads is Meta's answer to Twitter, you only need look at the glaring '@' logo, with its brazen nod to the way Twitter handles have always been presented. The cage fight between Musk and Zuckerberg, if only metaphorical for now, has well and truly started. With an interface and layout that's similar to Twitter in appearance, users will find it easy enough to navigate. The big challenge is that it's yet another social media site that users will have to build an audience on, and many may simply not want to spend time doing that, but being able to connect with your Instagram followers does make that a fair bit easier. Whether it takes off to the extent that Meta anticipates remains to be seen, but Instagram marketers should appreciate it because the cross-posting functionality finally brings clickable links to the platform.”
Richard Michie, CEO of Leeds-based The Marketing Optimist: "I can really see Threads making serious inroads into Twitter, which has been a basket case since Elon Musk bought it to supposedly fix it. Yes, there are features like search missing but I'm sure they'll be added later. The really interesting point is that this is connected to Instagram and not Facebook, which is clearly becoming the grumbling grandad of social media. I joined Threads this morning and I'm really encouraged. The sign-up process was so simple: just connect via an Instagram account and you are away. I have lots of followers already, as they pick up from the Instagram feed. The interface is a doddle, too. Chapeau."
Steven Mather, director and lawyer at Leicester-based Steven Mather Solicitor: "Threads arrives and offers absolutely nothing new or innovative relative to Twitter. And yet, because Twitter is now a vacuous hell-hole of twisted keyboard warriors, far right and left nob-heads and £8 blue ticks, it seems those addicted to posting are scrambling for somewhere to live online. Meanwhile, Meta’s track record on data and privacy would suggest that they’ll get to profile you from your writings easily and users will be served even more personalised ads. I’ll pass.”
Kate Allen, founder at Devon-based luxury lettings company, Finest Stays: "Given that cage fighting isn’t my cup of tea, it’s great to see the two digital behemoths go head to head in this online format. My money is on Threads given the initial ease of posting, the pleasing visuals, and the fresh start against the horrible political vitriol that is poisoning Twitter. But asking me to follow all the accounts I already follow on Instagram seems lazy and uninspiring."
Jukka Väänänen, CEO of the UK newswire, Newspage: “After all of five minutes on Threads, you get the feeling Twitter is done for. It’s text-based but doesn’t really feel it. It’s modern and multi-media, a sans serif to Twitter’s serif font. If you’re on Instagram, getting onto Threads is a doddle. It's both seamless and slick. Switch quickly between the Threads and Twitter apps on your mobile phone and the latter feels legacy, sepia-tinted. Threads has got an energy that Twitter has long lost. It’s hard to see a way out of this one for Musk, especially given the volume of users on Instagram. For marketers, advertisers and the news media, Threads is another billion piece puzzle to solve. If interoperability and cross-platforming really are the future, now’s the time for everyone to sharpen their teeth."
Debbie Porter, managing director of Bakewell-based Destination Digital Marketing: "Mark Zuckerberg really doesn’t like Elon Musk, does he? 10 million users in under seven hours is one hell of a launch. In the start-up screen is a mention of the Fediverse, with the promise that the platform's future iterations will be able to communicate with other social networks. Threads is inviting everyone to party in one big space, agnostic of whether the person they are communicating with is signed up and active on Instagram, Mastodon, Snapchat or, who knows, even Twitter too? Let's see if it flies. It certainly looks that way so far."
Neil Shearer of Manchester-based Neil Shearer Photography: "I'm liking it so far. It's a great opportunity to add features people have been wanting on Twitter for years. Yep it's a bit clunky still, but it’s literally Day 1 so cut the Zuck some slack. It's crashing when I'm trying to post, and there's no easy way to juggle multiple accounts, but overall it feels ‘nicer’ than my first day on Twitter. It immediately feels more welcoming."
Tasnime Rotherham, founder of Peterborough-based independent tea retailer, Very Craftea: "So I have just signed up and I'm not really sure why! Is it because I missed the boat on all the other social media platforms when they started out? Probably. Is it the same as Twitter? From my limited use on Twitter, 100% yes looks and feels exactly the same. Will I use it more than my dormant Twitter account? Yes, definitely. Well, at least for the first week or so. I guess the one thing that's different, because you can connect with your existing followers, it's not as scary, and an into-the-unknown leap. I already had 40 people who wanted to follow me as soon as I joined. So that's a nice feeling of popularity. Who knows what it'll look like in a week though?"