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Threads: Instagram launches app to compete with Twitter

  • By Chris Vallance and James Clayton
  • Technology reporters, BBC News

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the company̵[ads1]7;s newly launched Threads app aims to surpass Twitter.

Experts say threads can attract Twitter users who are unhappy with recent changes to the platform.

Threads – which is not yet launching in the EU – allows users to post up to 500 characters, and has many features similar to Twitter.

In a post, Zuckerberg said that keeping the platform “friendly … will ultimately be the key to success”.

But Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded: “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than to indulge in the false joy of hiding your pain on Instagram.”

Asked on Threads if the app would be “bigger than Twitter,” Zuckerberg said: “It will take some time, but I think it should be a public conversation app with over 1 billion people on it.

“Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t been able to. Hopefully we will.”

Competitors have criticized the amount of data the app can use. This can include health, financial and browsing data linked to users’ identities, according to the Apple App Store.

Threads is now available to download in over 100 countries, including the UK, but not yet in the EU due to regulatory concerns.

‘Initial version’

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, called the new app an “initial version”, with additional features planned including the ability to interact with people on other social media apps such as Mastodon.

“Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and extend it to text,” the firm said before the launch.

Despite Threads being a standalone app, users sign in with an Instagram account. Their Instagram username will continue, but there is an option to customize their profile specifically for threads.

Users will also be able to choose to follow the same accounts they do on Instagram, says Meta. The app allows users to be private on Instagram but public on threads.

The release of the new app comes after criticism of Meta’s business practices.

Last year, Meta whistleblower Frances Haugen said the company had put “profit over security” and criticized how the platform was moderated.

The company was also rocked by a scandal in which it allowed third parties, including British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, to access Facebook users’ personal data.

In an apparent reference to that controversial past, Mr Musk joked on Monday “thank goodness they’re so sensibly run”.

There are several alternatives to Twitter available, such as Bluesky and Mastodon, but these have struggled to gain traction.

Threads has a significant advantage because it is connected to Instagram, and the hundreds of millions of users already on that platform.

On threads, posts can be shared on Instagram and vice versa and can include links, photos and videos of up to five minutes.

However, some early adopters on Wednesday reported problems uploading images, suggesting problems with teething.

Users see a feed of posts, which Meta calls “threads,” from people they follow as well as recommended content.

They are able to control who can “mention” them and filter out replies to posts containing specific words.

Unfollowing, blocking, restricting or reporting other profiles is also possible, and any accounts users block on Instagram are automatically blocked on threads.

While Meta emphasizes ties to Instagram, media coverage has focused on its similarity to Twitter, with some investors describing the app as a “Twitter killer.”


Posts can be shared between threads and Instagram and can include links, images and videos

It was Mr Musk’s latest push to get users to sign up to Twitter Blue, the platform’s subscription service.

Twitter has also announced that its popular user dashboard TweetDeck will go behind a paywall in 30 days.

Since Mr Musk took over, many Twitter users have publicly expressed their displeasure with the platform and his stewardship – citing erratic behavior and political views.

Last month, Mr. Musk and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed — possibly in jest — to a cage match, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s early posts on Threads mentioned his interest in mixed martial arts.

While Threads will be available in the UK, it is not yet available in the EU due to regulatory uncertainty, particularly around the EU’s Digital Markets Act.

But the company says it is looking at launching in the EU.

The law lays down rules for how large companies such as Meta can share data between platforms they own. Sharing data between Threads and Instagram is part of the issue.

Meta maintains the protection of privacy is fundamental to the business.

Additional reporting by Max Matza and George Bowden

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