Meta’s Instagram takes on Twitter with rival Threads app

While Twitter announced unpopular new rules that set daily limits on the number of tweets users can read in a day, Instagram teased an alternative app, Threads, to be released on Thursday.

The new Meta-owned platform, which bills itself as “Instagram’s text-based conversation app,” appeared on Apple’s App Store with no accompanying details other than a simple countdown page in the name.

Threads seem to share many functional similarities with Twitter. According to its App Store profile, it promises users the ability to “share your point of view” through text- or image-based posts known as “threads,” which people can react to and reply to and share. Many of the app’s features appear to be tightly integrated with Instagram, according to preview screenshots, giving users the ability to log in via their Instagram handle, keep their username and follow the same accounts.

“No matter what it is you’re interested in, you can follow and connect directly with your favorite creators and others who love the same things,” Thread’s App Store listing says. It also promised users the ability to “build a loyal following” and “share your ideas, opinions and creativity with the world.”

In an email Tuesday, Meta declined to provide additional information about the app. But earlier this year, Meta said it was exploring the creation of a standalone text-based social media network where “creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests.”

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The launch of Threads follows announcements over the weekend from Elon Musk, who bought Twitter in October, limiting the app’s functionality for many users. Last week, he announced that the platform will temporarily limit the number of tweets that users could read per day, and unveiled a “temporary emergency measure” that prevented non-logged-in users from viewing tweets on the platform’s browser. He said they were supposed to prevent third-party computer programs from combing the platform for data, saying: “We were robbed so much that it was degrading service for ordinary users!”

On Monday, Twitter announced a further change: access to the TweetDeck platform – which gives users an improved interface for viewing multiple tweets at once – will be limited to paying users starting soon.

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Meta has also struggled with its own problems in recent months. Thread’s planned launch on Thursday comes as the company embarks on a large-scale downsizing, eliminating 21,000 roles, including teams that handle content moderation, policy and regulatory issues. Like other tech giants, Meta is facing an industry-wide downturn – and increased competition from TikTok.

Monday night, Musk answered to a tweet about Meta’s release of Threads by saying, “Thank goodness they’re so sensibly run.” He too answered to posts which highlighted the long list of personal data that users will be required to give Instagram access to in order to use the app, according to the App Store profile.

Meta and Twitter’s commercial battle for users has been echoed by an increasingly public personal rivalry between the two men at their helm. Last month, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg accepted a challenge from Musk to participate in a cage match at a Las Vegas arena following news reports on Meta’s Twitter competitor. It’s unclear whether the fight — announced as Zuckerberg increasingly tries to make himself look more relevant to the tech elite — will actually take place.

Meta’s decision to launch Threads pits it against other companies that are also trying to lure users away from Twitter with alternative social networks.

Founded seven years ago, Mastodon’s open-source decentralized model saw a huge influx of new users in the immediate aftermath of Musk’s Twitter takeover. Bluesky, which also runs on a decentralized system, was launched by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and is in the beta stage. Unlike Twitter, the platform says it intends to give users more control over their feed by letting them choose from a variety of recommendation algorithms to curate their experience.

Meta is no stranger to launching its own versions of innovations developed by rival apps – often with success. In 2016, Instagram copied Snapchat’s disappearing photo feature and launched Stories, an offer that has since become an integral part of the user experience. Four years later, Instagram unveiled Reels, which allows users to create and share short-form vertical videos, just like TikTok.

Naomi Nix contributed to this report.

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