Zuckerberg launches Threads to take on Musk, gains 30 million registered users in 16 hours

Source: Tencent News “Qian Wang”

Author: Ji Zhenyu

The personal battle between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in the “octagonal cage” has not yet started, but the first round of competition between the two has already been very intense.

On July 5th, US time, Threads, an app that is supposed to be officially launched on the 6th, was unexpectedly released ahead of schedule. This is an app under Meta, which is a Twitter-like application. With the unparalleled user scale advantage of its parent company in the social field, Threads has quickly attracted the first wave of users.

Some celebrities who previously had the most followers on Twitter, such as Bill Gates and Shakira, opened Threads accounts as soon as possible. Meta founder Zuckerberg is full of fighting spirit, and his Threads account became the real-time “battle report” center for Threads: “Break 5 million in one hour”, “Break 30 million this morning”…

Within less than 24 hours of its release, Threads has skyrocketed to the top of the free app download list in the US Apple App Store. Following this trend, Threads will soon surpass 100 million registered users.

On the other hand, the real controller behind Twitter, Musk, has not been idle and has been closely following the progress of Threads. In addition to posting extremely ironic and disdainful remarks on his personal Twitter account before the release of Threads, Musk also sent a lawyer’s letter to the initiator Meta at the first time Threads was released, claiming that the other party was suspected of hiring former Twitter employees to steal business secrets.

From the most intuitive product form, Threads is no different from Twitter-similar open short message platform form, and users on the platform can perform actions such as publishing, forwarding, and commenting. However, from a more fundamental product logic point of view, the two are fundamentally different. According to the official introduction of Instagram, the publisher of Threads, the application will be based on the decentralized ActivityPub protocol in the future and become part of Fediverse. This means that in the future, users on Threads can also communicate with other platforms based on decentralized protocols that are not controlled by Meta.

For Zuckerberg, the competition with Twitter is not a full-scale showdown that he has made every effort to engage in. In terms of scale, the total monthly active users of all products under Meta worldwide has reached 3.8 billion, almost 10 times that of Twitter, so it is more like a destroyer dispatched by this aircraft carrier Meta.

Whether from the perspective of the size ratio of the two parties or the underlying product logic, “killing” Twitter is only the surface of Meta’s new product Threads. Zuckerberg’s greater ambition may lie in exploring the future of social platforms, and through building Threads, a decentralized product, to subvert the centralized model that has brought huge success to himself since his entrepreneurship and made him the undisputed leader in the social field.

With over 30 million users on the first day, what is Threads?

Meta founder Zuckerberg is perhaps the most excited of the big names in the tech community these days. Starting on the afternoon of July 5, he frequently posted updates on Threads, Meta’s latest social app, and interacted actively with other users; on the morning of the 6th, Zuckerberg’s personal Threads account even turned into an official message center for Threads, frequently releasing good news about the growing number of users.

“Just one hour after going online, the number of registered users exceeded 5 million.”

“More than 10 million registered users in 7 hours.”

“This morning, the number of registered users exceeded 30 million.”

You can feel Zuckerberg’s excitement through the screen. After being widely regarded as a competitor to Twitter, Zuckerberg didn’t even try to hide it and posted a tweet on the competitor’s platform for the first time, with a picture of two Spider-Men accusing each other of being fake.

As one of Meta’s most important internal projects this year, Threads has received widespread attention even before its official release. Originally, Threads was scheduled to be released on July 6th, but on the afternoon of July 5th, many users found that Threads was already available for download and registration.

Threads was released by Instagram, Meta’s image sharing application. In the introduction section of the application, this application was positioned as “discussions of current topics as well as discussions of potential trends in the future,” and emphasized: “No matter what you are interested in, you can follow and directly connect with your favorite creators and others who share your interests, and create a fan platform for sharing your ideas, opinions, and creativity.”

According to the initial introduction of Threads, this application is very similar to Instagram in the field of image-sharing social networks, but it is a product that transitions and extends to short-text social networks. After registering for Threads, the social relationships of Instagram users can be directly imported.

When describing this application, combined with the several application interface pictures displayed on its page, it is easy to associate with the current mainstream social application Twitter. Yes, Threads, whether from the product positioning or the intuitive interface, is very similar to Twitter.

Although the publisher of Threads has tried its best to avoid such an impression, the social giant Meta that really dominates this product does not have the most direct association with this product, but appears as an application under Instagram. However, Meta’s intentions are obvious: to seize some market share in the field of open message platforms dominated by Twitter.

Therefore, if Threads is simply understood as an extension of Instagram, it is undoubtedly underestimating the strategic ambition behind Meta’s launch of this application. If Meta is likened to an aircraft carrier, then Threads will be a destroyer dispatched by this aircraft carrier battle group to openly challenge Twitter.

Less than 24 hours before its official release, Threads has soared to the top of the free app download rankings in the US Apple App Store.

Threads release: A great timing

Last year, Musk’s acquisition of Twitter caused a sensation, and in the end, Musk took Twitter into his own hands at a high price. Just as he ambitiously announced to build a new Twitter, the social field overlord Meta, which had been observing his movements, had already begun discussions internally.

In fact, when Musk was close to completing the acquisition of Twitter, Meta had already developed a Twitter competitor. A Meta executive said: “Twitter is now in crisis mode, and we (Meta) need to regain our magic.”

Another executive said more aggressively (perhaps what Zuckerberg wants to hear): “Let’s grab their bread and butter!” (Referring to Twitter’s basic business)

It has been more than half a year since Musk completed the acquisition of Twitter. Meta has been developing Threads intensively, and recently, this product, which everyone regards as a Twitter competitor, has finally surfaced.

While Meta is working hard to create Threads, the Twitter acquired by Musk has gone through multiple rounds of turmoil. In order to significantly reduce expenses, Twitter has carried out layoffs of up to 70%, faced collective lawsuits from employees, and even recently, it was exposed that the rented office building has arrears of rent and was forcibly evicted. On the other hand, in order to bring more advertising revenue and boost performance, Musk finally found Linda Yaccarino, the former chairman of NBC’s advertising industry with deep accumulation in the advertising industry.

Just when everything seemed to be moving towards stability, Musk suddenly announced last week through his personal Twitter that Twitter users will be greatly restricted from viewing tweets in response to competitors’ arbitrary crawling of Twitter data. Unregistered users cannot see the content on the platform, and registered non-certified users can only browse up to 600 tweets per day.

Although this news immediately caused protests from many users, Musk once again demonstrated his “domineering CEO” posture, sacrificing the user experience on the platform for the sake of achieving his so-called goal of controlling competitors.

The sudden change in Twitter’s policy has also immediately caused changes in user behavior. In the just-concluded weekend, several social applications similar to Twitter, such as Bluesky and Mastodon, also experienced a surge in user registrations.

There is no doubt that the release of Threads happened at an excellent time point: users’ disappointment with Twitter has once again spread on the Internet, and Threads, which emerged at this time, can just attract these disappointed users.

Zuckerberg vs. Musk: The first round of opening stage?

Zuckerberg’s direct frontal attack on Twitter naturally made Musk, the actual controller behind Twitter, unable to sit still and ridicule and disdain Threads at the beginning of its launch. For example, Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, posted a screenshot of Threads’ product description on his personal Twitter, which showed that Threads may collect all kinds of user data. Dorsey commented, “Everything about you is mine,” meaning that Threads under Meta still follows the old path of Meta’s social applications, collecting all kinds of personal data from users. In response, Musk said “That’s right.”

There is no doubt that user personal data privacy issues have always been a topic that Meta, as a super social giant, has been criticized for. In recent years, Meta has paid a huge price for this issue and has taken a series of measures such as changing platform rules.

Despite being criticized, Meta still maintains its position as the global social giant. According to Meta’s first-quarter financial report, as of the first quarter of this year, Meta has a total of 3.8 billion monthly active users worldwide under all its applications.

As an industry giant, Meta naturally considers various potential threats in the social field from a strategic perspective. Zuckerberg’s approach is to timely launch competing products, relying on the comprehensive overwhelming advantage of Meta’s resources and funds to strangle the opponent in the bud. However, previous attempts at internal Meta projects have not been successful, such as the Neighborhoods application, which focuses on socializing between neighbors and imitates Nextdoor, the Tuned application for couples, the Campus social application for campuses, and the video dating service SBlockingrked.

Although the above attempts are not successful, they did not receive enough attention within Meta due to the limited market capacity and future imagination space they targeted. The release of Threads is completely different. It can be seen from Zuckerberg’s personal participation as the most active user on Threads that the short message socializing on Twitter targeted by it has always been the field that Zuckerberg covets. Taking advantage of last year’s turbulence after Musk took over Twitter, entering the market is a reasonable consideration from a strategic perspective.

In addition, the recent speculation about a fight between Musk and Zuckerberg has added a dramatic color to the comparison between Threads and Twitter.

When replying to a Threads user’s post saying “Threads is great, Twitter is finished, and Elon will also be KO’d by Zuckerberg”, Zuckerberg said, “We are still in the opening phase of the first round.”

Regarding the goals that Threads hopes to achieve in the future, Zuckerberg also expressed his opinion publicly, which is to first reach 1 billion users before considering anything else. When answering a user’s question about whether Threads will have more Blocking, he believes that “public conversation applications should have more than 1 billion people on this platform. Twitter had the opportunity to do this but didn’t, and I hope we can do it.”

Zuckerberg also responded on Threads to the question of whether to include ads in Threads. He said that just like the path implemented for Meta’s other products, first make the product well, then look for a clear path that allows it to achieve 1 billion users, and only consider commercialization at that time.

From Twitter’s perspective, despite experiencing a lot of turmoil, Twitter, which is under Musk’s leadership, has repeatedly demonstrated amazing resilience. In the field of short-text social platforms, Twitter is still irreplaceable. The first source of many major breaking events is still on Twitter. Last year, Twitter’s monthly active users reached nearly 400 million. Recently, Musk has repeatedly tweeted that Twitter’s activity has reached an all-time high.

Aside from “killing Twitter”, Zuckerberg has bigger ambitions

If competing with Twitter for market share in the short-text public social platform field is the most direct purpose of Threads, Zuckerberg’s bigger ambition may transcend the underlying logic of currently centralized social platforms.

The product application introduction of Threads clearly states that future versions of Threads will be compatible with Fediverse, which will make Threads platform compatible with other platforms that support Fediverse.

The so-called Fediverse is a hybrid word of “Federation” and “Universe” in English. The federation universe is composed of a series of free software, a set of interconnected servers (user-built or third-party hosted), together providing network publishing (such as social media, Weibo, blogs, or websites) or file hosting functions.

Although various servers based on Fediverse run independently, they can communicate with each other. On different servers (instances), users can create different accounts. These accounts can communicate across instance boundaries because the software running on the server supports one or more communication protocols that follow open standards.

Currently, the communication protocols supported by Fediverse include ActivityPub, Diaspora network, OStatus, Zot & Zot/6. On the Instagram-related introduction page, Meta clearly stated that Threads plans to use ActivityPub to communicate with other platforms in the future.

“Our vision is that Thread will allow you to communicate with other people on other platforms on Fediverse that we do not control or own.” Meta said.

Meta also stated that since the servers on Fediverse are decentralized and distributed, changes made on this server may not necessarily affect other servers, so changes made on Threads may not necessarily take effect on other servers. For example, even if a post is deleted on Threads, it may still be visible on other servers.

For Meta, a decentralized protocol is an act of subversion against itself. Currently, all of its applications, from the earliest Facebook to Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and others, are directly controlled by Meta and are super social products built on a centralized basis. Threads, a decentralized protocol-based social platform, undoubtedly represents Zuckerberg’s exploration and attempt to the future, and also demonstrates Zuckerberg’s greater ambition and vision: I may not own all the platforms and servers, but I will definitely be an early active participant in the future decentralized architecture.

From this perspective, although Threads seems to have little difference from Twitter in terms of product appearance, its underlying logic is completely different, seemingly aiming to “kill Twitter,” but actually has even greater ambitions behind it.

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