Threads Launches with Zuckerberg’s Quirky Charm

More than 10 million people signed up for Threads, Meta’s long-awaited rival to Twitter, within the first few hours of its launch, the Facebook parent’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday. The app went live on Apple and Android stores in 100 countries at 2300 GMT. It is free to use and runs without ads.

It is the biggest challenger to Twitter, which has seen a series of potential competitors emerge but has yet to replace one of social media’s most iconic companies. Despite the ferocity of Twitter’s users, it has never achieved profitability and has struggled to attract a large enough audience to justify its advertising prices. But it has a unique advantage: The ability to link with other social media accounts and share links from anywhere in the world.

Twitter’s new chief executive Jack Dorsey has been trying to turn the site around by boosting its user base and introducing a paid subscription service dubbed BlueSky. But it is a long road for the company to reach the scale of Instagram, which has more than 1 billion monthly active users. The latest entrant, Threads, is trying to build up its user base by appealing to influencers and celebrities.

Zuckerberg, who goes by @zuck on the app, spent much of the first few hours of the Threads launch responding to questions from new users. Some of his banter with the users was playful and aimed at his bitter rival, Musk. Zuckerberg tweeted for the first time in 11 years, sharing an image aimed at Musk of two cartoon Spider-man pointing at each other – an apparent jibe.

The app, which calls retweets’reposts’ and tweets ‘threads,’ is available in Apple and Google app stores, with no current ads. Its arrival is a blow for Twitter, plagued by controversy over its content moderation policies and glitches that have scared off significant advertisers. The company has slashed staffing levels and cut its revenue forecast.

Analysts believe it could quickly thrive if influential social media users such as Kardashian, Bieber, and Messi switch to Threads regularly. Analysts say that its ties to Instagram could also help it attract ad dollars.

But the app is still in its early stages, and its data collection policies have raised privacy concerns, leading to a delay for the EU. As a result, it is asking for access to health, financial, and browsing data and isn’t available in the European Union.

It also faces competition from decentralized services such as Mastodon and a handful of other new text-based apps, including BlueSky and the recently launched Spill. All seek to become the next Twitter, which remains popular and is a critical forum for news, entertainment, and public discourse. Twitter investors have been hoping the company can recover from its troubles, but it has faced a wave of bad publicity and has reported disappointing quarterly earnings. Its value has fallen sharply since its $44 billion acquisition last October.

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