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Threads: Why Meta’s Twitter rival could finally be the one that catches on | Science & Tech News

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If you can’t beat them, copy them.

That’s generally been Mark Zuckerberg‘s go-to strategy when it comes to dealing with upstart competitors to his social media empire.

Long gone are the days when Instagram was just a feed of photos as was its original vision, with two of its now marquee features ripped straight from Snapchat (Stories) and TikTok (Reels).

Other cases of cherry-picking from the wider web haven’t gone so smoothly – you might not even have heard of Bulletin, a Substack-like service for subscription newsletters; or Sparked, an online dating service; both of which got shut down before they got close to rivalling their obvious sources of inspiration.

But with Threads, another new app from Meta, this time clearly taking after Twitter, there’s reason to believe Zuckerberg is bullish about its chances of catching on – and in a big way.

Launching on Thursday after months of rumours, it’s been billed as a text-focused platform “where communities come together to discuss everything from the topics you care about today to what’ll be trending tomorrow”.

It sounds – and certainly looks – incredibly familiar, almost shamelessly so.

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Why are so many apps adopting the same look?

The preview of the Threads app Pic: Apple App Store
A preview of the Threads app on the Apple App Store

But Zuckerberg has never appeared to feel an ounce of shame about taking other companies’ ideas, and will see Twitter as a wounded animal – one which he thinks he can not just copy, but beat.

“I always thought that Twitter should have a billion people using it,” he told podcaster Lex Fridman earlier this year.

“That idea, coupled with good execution, should get there.”

Shots fired – but one key decision could give him a good chance of hitting his target.

Threads will allow users to keep the same username and follow the same accounts as they do on Instagram, which makes starting out a far easier proposition for the photo-sharing app’s two billion users.

If even a fraction of them make the move, Threads will instantly dwarf other Twitter-likes such as Bluesky and Mastodon, while potentially making rapid advances on Twitter’s estimated user base of 360,000-400,000.

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Zuckerberg faces long and painful road to metaverse success

The appetite is clearly there for a Twitter alternative due to Elon Musk‘s incendiary ownership, with his latest controversial move to apply temporary reading limits for all accounts reigniting many people’s desire to leave.

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk, Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, gestures as he attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre in Paris, France, June 16, 2023. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo
Elon Musk’s Twitter tenure has been chaotic to say the least

Of course, the most important ingredient for any social media platform is the people you connect with – and if your Twitter followers haven’t all picked the same new home, your Bluesky or Mastodon feed will feel a bit lonely.

Chances are, more of your favourite people on Twitter are on Instagram than anywhere else. And other than the sheer number of users Instagram has, the greatest feather in its cap is just who those users are.

Threads could feasibly draw upon Instagram’s huge line-up of celebrities, athletes, politicians, sports clubs, news outlets and brands to give it an immediate leg-up on other Twitter-likes. There’s no doubt Meta’s new platform has been built with a mainstream audience in mind.

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FILE- In this April 10, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. Last spring, as false claims about vaccine safety threatened to undermine the world's response to COVID-19, researchers at Facebook wrote that they could reduce vaccine misinformation by tweaking how vaccine posts show up on users' newsfeeds, or by turning off comments entirely. Yet despite internal documents showing these changes worked, Facebook was slow to take action. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t enjoyed a successful new platform launch in some time

It’s been quite a while since Zuckerberg enjoyed any positive buzz, given Facebook’s user privacy scandals and criticism of his metaverse strategy, while a generation of young people are growing up preferring TikTok for their social media kick. Growth at the platform that made him famous, Facebook, has long stalled, and Meta’s two other most successful platforms – Instagram and WhatsApp – were simply bought.

But if Threads works out, Zuckerberg will see it as proof that one of Silicon Valley’s original tech bros has still got it.

If it doesn’t, he’ll just have to beat Musk in the ring.

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