Meta launches messaging app Instagram Threads, difficult Twitter

Meta has officially unveiled its Twitter-like messaging app, Threads, which the company touts as Instagram’s “text-based conversational app.”

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of Meta, announced the debut of Threads on Wednesday, marking the official release of the social networking giant’s new text-based messaging app. Threads represents Meta’s attempt to capture the wave of users who have left Twitter amid Twitter’s often unpredictable ownership Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

The Threads app is now available to download for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play online store in over 100 countries, Meta said in a blog post. Threads shares the visual aesthetic of Twitter as a text-based social messaging app where users can post short messages for others to like, share, and comment on, as evidenced by Threads screenshots available on Apple’s App Store.

People can follow the same Threads accounts they follow on Instagram and reply to other public posts, similar to how people use Twitter.

Tech titans Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have a bitter business rivalry that culminated in a row on the playground, in which the two men offered to fight each other in a cage.

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Zuckerberg said Threads surpassed 5 million signups within the first four hours.

The official release came after Instagram posted a pre-order for Threads on the Apple App Store on Monday, saying the app was expected to launch on July 6 at that time. Many Instagram users have also recently been able to receive invites to access threads from their Instagram accounts.

Although Threads is associated with Instagram and users can use their existing Instagram usernames, the messaging service is a separate app that users must download.

“Threads are communities where communities come together to discuss everything from the topics that interest you today to the trends of tomorrow,” Instagram said in a description of Threads on the Apple App Store. “Whatever interests you, you can follow and connect directly with your favorite creators and others who love the same things – or build a loyal following of your own to share your ideas, opinions and creativity with the world.”

Meta said in the blog post that the new messaging app’s users’ individual feeds will feature “threads” posted by other users they follow, in addition to recommended content shared by creators that users may have not knowing.

Users can post Threads posts up to 500 characters in length. While the app is text-focused, users can also share links, photos, and videos, which can be up to 5 minutes long. Instagram users can also share their Threads posts through the app’s Stories feature, in addition to “any other platform of your choice,” the blog post reads.

Meta said it built Threads “with tools that facilitate positive, productive conversations” and that users can manage who mentions or replies to them within the app.

“Like Instagram, you can add hidden words to filter out replies to your threads that contain specific words,” the blog post reads. “You can unfollow, block, restrict, or report a profile in Threads by tapping the three-dot menu. Any accounts you have blocked on Instagram will be automatically blocked in threads.”

Dashing into the gap as Twitter implodes

Threads’ release comes at a time when Twitter, led by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has suffered a spate of glitches, leaving the popular social messaging app vulnerable to competing apps.

Most recently, Musk said Twitter users can only see a certain number of tweets per day to deal with “extreme data exploitation” and “system manipulation” at the messaging service.

Numerous Twitter users publicly complained that Musk temporarily imposed a so-called “rate limit” on Twitter, saying the tweet limits make the app a less engaging experience.

BlueSky, a rival social messaging app backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, said it saw “record high traffic” after Musk announced Twitter rate caps and temporarily paused signups to cope with the influx of new messages users who currently need to be invited to use the app.

Like BlueSky, Threads will use decentralized technology, which in theory will allow users to control and manage their data across other apps that contain the same underlying software.

While BlueSky is based on a decentralized network technology called the AT protocol, Threads will eventually integrate another decentralized technology called ActivityPub, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri said in a Threads post Wednesday, briefly open to the public. The ActivityPub software also supports another Twitter-like messaging app called Mastadon, which is also seeing an influx of new users looking for an alternative to Twitter.

Mosseri said his team was unable to provide support for ActivityPub in time for Threads’ official release due to “a number of complications that come with having a decentralized network.” But he reiterated that support is coming.

“If you’re wondering why this matters, here’s why: You may eventually leave Threads or, hopefully not, leave the platform,” Mosseri said. “If that ever happens, you should be able to take your audience to another server. Openness can make that possible.”

Meta added in his blog post that ActivityPub will allow people without Threads accounts to view Threads and interact with Threads users who have public profiles through other social apps using the same decentralized technology.

“Having a public profile on Threads means your posts are accessible from other apps, so you can reach new people with no extra effort,” Meta said in the blog post. “If you have a private profile, you can allow users in threads to follow you and interact with your content, similar to your experience on Instagram.”

Meta said Threads is the company’s first app “intended to be compatible with an open social networking protocol,” which she believes could usher in “a new era of diverse and interconnected networking.”

In 2019, Meta, then known as Facebook, introduced a messaging app for Instagram users, also called Threads. Unlike the current version of Threads, which focuses on text-based messaging, the previous Threads app instead focused on people sending short video and photo messages to their friends, as if they were using Snapchat.

Meta finally shut down threads in 2021, redirecting people to use Instagram to see all of their previous threads messages.

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