In 2022, months of drama – Elon Musk making an offer to buy Twitter, refusing to close the deal, and getting sued for trying to back out – concluded with Musk purchasing Twitter for $44 billion. The very day he acquired the company, Musk fired several top executives – including the CEO and CFO. Within weeks, nearly 50 percent of the company’s 7500 employees were laid off, occurrences of racial, homophobic, and transphobic slurs on the platform soared, and the blue checkmark, once signaling an account’s authenticity, became accessible to anyone willing to pay 8 dollars a month. The aggressive Twitter takeover combined with the often problematic following of its new owner left many users reevaluating their relationship with the social media platform. Some users left the platform, but others stayed for lack of a better alternative. But now, social media users have a new space to explore.
Earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg caught the internet by surprise when Meta launched a new social media app. Threads, built by the Instagram team, is a new platform meant for “sharing text updates and joining public conversations”. New users well-versed in Twitter are greeted by a familiar landscape: real-time conversations, buttons to like, quote, repost, and reply to threads, and metrics such as the number of likes and replies on a thread. Since an Instagram account is required to sign up for Threads, transferring account data to the new app is especially simple for existing Instagram users. As a result, many Instagram users who are not on Twitter find themselves exploring the new platform.
Over the years, several other social media apps have sought to compete with Twitter. However, last July, Twitter reported 237.8 million daily users, and competitors have not been able to come close to that number. But that fact would make the quick success of Threads that much more surprising. Just 16 hours after its debut, Threads already had 30 million sign-ups and was the top free app in Apple’s app store. By day 5, new sign-ups had soared to 100 million, making Threads the most rapidly downloaded app ever. New users also included celebrities, brands, and influencers, many of whom were eager to celebrate the new space and share their excitement to engage with others. Several notable people on Threads have even decided to leave Twitter permanently. On July 10, writer and activist Shaun King said goodbye to his 1 million Twitter followers and 200,000 tweets, and encouraged his followers to join him on Threads.
Not everyone is a supporter of the new social media platform, particularly Elon Musk. The week that Threads launched, Musk began to express his displeasure with the new app. “Competition is fine, cheating is not”, Musk replied to a report that Twitter is threatening to sue Meta for stealing trade secrets. A spokesperson for Meta stated that no former Twitter engineers worked on developing the Threads app.
Although Twitter traffic has seen a downward trend, it is unclear what the future of either platform holds. While many Threads users are excited about the new, friendlier space, many Twitter users prefer to stay put – at least for now.