Threads app: Meta’s Twitter rival logs five million users in first four hours after going live

Instagram-linked app rolls out in US and UK but is unavailable in EU over regulatory concerns

Meta’s Twitter rival, Threads, logged five million sign-ups in its first four hours of operation, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta is seeking to woo users from Elon Musk’s troubled platform through an offer of lengthier posts, a handful of celebrity backers – and a strong resemblance to its competitor.

The Facebook and Instagram owner brought forward the app’s debut by 15 hours to 7pm EDT in the United States and midnight in the United Kingdom, making it freely available in 100 countries on the Apple and Google app stores, although regulatory concerns mean it will not be available in the EU.

Brands such as Billboard, HBO, NPR and Netflix had accounts set up within minutes of the app going live. Meta said initial celebrity backers included Shakira and Gordon Ramsay, with a recent report suggesting that Oprah Winfrey and the Dalai Lama had also been approached.


Thread users will need an Instagram account to log in. Once they have signed up, they can choose to follow the same accounts they follow on Instagram, if they too have joined the new app.

The app closely resembles Twitter visually, although some of the wording has been changed, with retweets called “reposts” and tweets called “threads”. Meta has not been averse to copying rival products in the past, including the 2020 launch of Instagram’s Reels feature, noted for its similarity to TikTok’s short-form videos.

Posts on Threads can be 500 characters long, compared with 280 for most Twitter users, and videos of up to five minutes in length can be posted while a post can be shared as a link on other platforms. Users can unfollow, block, restrict or report others. Users can also filter out replies with certain words in them.

Meta has rolled out Threads in the wake of another turbulent period at Twitter, which imposed tweet viewing limits at the weekend in a move it blamed partly on data harvesting by companies building artificial intelligence models.

In subsequent Threads posts, Zuckerberg addressed those challenges. “I think there should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn’t nailed it. Hopefully we will,” he wrote.

News of Mr Zuckerberg’s impending unveiling of Threads had resulted in the Facebook founder and Mr Musk apparently agreeing to a cage fight over the matter, although a date has not been set for the unlikely confrontation.

Mr Musk had tweeted about Meta, saying: “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram.”

Meta described Threads as a “new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations”, aiming to “take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas”. Twitter has a user base of more than 250 million, while Instagram reportedly has two billion users.

Meta said the app would also resemble Twitter’s rivals such as Mastodon, which is based on a decentralised platform that would allow accounts to be transferred to other services. It said: “We are working toward making Threads compatible with the open, interoperable social networks that we believe can shape the future of the internet.”

Earlier this week, social media consultant and industry analyst Matt Navarra told PA the app is the “first credible threat” to Twitter.

“Users of Twitter are desperately looking for an exit from the platform to escape, and the existing options of rivals are fairly limited. They all have the same big problem, which is you have to start from zero – it’s a network that is completely new.

“One of the biggest benefits for Meta is that it’s building off the back of Instagram, where people are familiar and can also kick-start their following because it ties into the same social graph.”

The arrival of the new app comes after Twitter announced TweetDeck is to become the next part of the company to be limited to users who have paid for verified status.

Two days earlier, Mr Musk announced users would be limited to reading just 600 posts a day. – Agencies