Threads becomes the fastest downloaded app as Twitter threatens Meta

Two hours after Mark Zuckerberg hit the start button on Threads, Instagram’s new app for real-time public conversations, on Wednesday, he announced that more than two million people had downloaded his latest creation.

That was just the beginning.

Another two hours later, five million people had downloaded threads. By the time Mr. Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, went to bed Wednesday night, the number of downloads had climbed to 10 million. When he woke up Thursday morning, the app had been downloaded more than 30 million times, he said.

In less than a day, Threads – which Twitter is targeting as a competitor – appears to have captured the crown of the fastest downloaded app of all time. According to OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, it significantly outperformed ChatGPT, the chatbot that was downloaded a million times in the first five days. And it’s on track to surpass ChatGPT’s 100 million user mark in two months, which is the fastest-ever figure for that number, according to analytics firm Similarweb.

Some of the most followed Twitter users — like Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Shakira, and Oprah Winfrey — immediately joined the threads and started posting. The atmosphere was solemn, with users writing welcome messages and expressing willingness to read each other’s posts. Eventually, the new app got so overwhelmed by users that it seemed unstable.

“This is as good a start as we could have hoped for!” So said Mr. Zuckerberg, whose businesses include Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp, in a post on Threads on Thursday. He later added, “It feels like the start of something special.”

The initial momentum underscored people’s desire to find an alternative to Twitter, the 18-year-old digital city square that has long been the focal point for public online conversations. Since Elon Musk bought Twitter last year, the billionaire has made changes that have angered longtime users of the social platform, especially those who don’t care about his laissez-faire approach to content moderation. Twitter has also suffered from more outages and bugs.

Mr Musk does not simply condone Mr Zuckerberg’s actions. On Thursday, lawyers for Twitter Meta sent a letter threatening legal action, accusing the company of using trade secrets to build threads and urging the social network to keep internal documents relevant to a dispute between the two companies. The letter was previously reported by Semafor. A meta spokeswoman declined to comment.

Threads was a surprise hit for Meta, which badly needed a win after coming under scrutiny for spreading misinformation and other toxic content across the internet. While Mr. Zuckerberg’s social network was hailed in its early days, in recent years it has drawn criticism from regulators, activists and users who have been angry at the company’s handling of data and its products. Meta also faced questions about its push into the immersive digital world of the so-called Metaverse, which is still evolving.

But this week was — at least briefly — a reprieve for Mr. Zuckerberg and his company. At Meta, employees rejoiced in threads starting Wednesday night, exchanging inside jokes and memes with one another, according to screenshots of the conversations viewed by the New York Times.

Celebrities, brands and influencers have been given early access to the app over the last few days, a move by Meta to encourage a casual culture of fun and discussion. Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said in an interview on Wednesday that he wanted Threads to be a “friendly place” for public conversations.

“I can’t get enough of your Threads,” actress Jennifer Lopez said in a Threads post, adding a musical note emoji. Ms. DeGeneres wrote in her first Threads post, “Welcome to Gay Twitter!”

But such early momentum doesn’t necessarily lead to long-term commitment and success. According to the latest public numbers quoted by the company last year, Twitter had more than 250 million daily users. And some Threads users have been put off by an issue that may result in users having to delete their connected Instagram account if they want to delete their Threads account. Instagram said it is looking into alternative ways Threads users can deactivate their accounts.

This is an evolving story and will be updated.

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