The Meta's Mark Zuckerberg delivered a blow to Elon Musk on Wednesday night, as the tech billionaires rivalry went live with the launch of Instagram's much-anticipated Threads platform, a clone of Twitter.
"Let's do this. Welcome to Threads," Zuckerberg posted on the app, along with a fire emoji.
Analysts said investors are salivating over the possibility that Threads' ties to Instagram might give it an integrated user base and advertising apparatus. That could siphon ad dollars from Twitter, whose new CEO is trying to revive the microblogging company's struggling business.
While Themes launches as a standalone app, users can log in with their Instagram credentials and follow the same accounts, which could make it an easy addition to the existing habits for Instagram's more than 2 billion monthly active users.
“Investors can't help but get a little excited about the prospect that Meta actually has a 'Twitter-Killer,'" said Danny Hewson, head of financial analysis at investment platform AJ Bell.
Meta stock closed up 3% on Wednesday before the launch, outpacing gains by rival tech companies as the broader market edged down.
Threads' arrival comes after Zuckerberg and Musk traded barbs for months and even threatened to fight each other in a real-life mixed mixed martial arts cage match in Las Vegas.
The timing is opportune for Meta to land a blow, as months of Musk's chaotic decision-making has roiled Twitter.
Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion last October, but its value has plummeted since it faced an exodus of advertisers amid massive staffing cuts and content moderation controversies.
While Meta will likely focus on user growth first before integrating advertising into threads, big brands will "expend (expend) a good amount of ad spend on the platform" to seek refuge in the relative safety of their brand and capitalize on early buzz, Matt Navarra said, a social media consultant who has worked with Meta, Google, and Pinterest.
"We're here to foster a positive and creative space for you to express your thoughts. This time, it's all about the conversation," said a post on the official Threads account.
Brands like Billboard, HBO, and Variety had accounts set up within minutes of launch, as have celebrities like Shakira and other well-known personalities like former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg. According to a Reuters review, the app did not appear to show any ads.
Ryan Dirt, CEO of influencer marketing company Influential, said Meta is working on social media influencers to attract them to the new app and encourages them to post at least twice a day to build the topic of topics.
Some thanked the company for early access in their initial posts.
The app also benefits from the failure of Twitter's other potential competitors to take advantage of the service's stumbles. While many burgeoning new competitors such as Mastodon, Post, Truth Social, and T2 have tried to lure Twitter users away, all remain relatively small so far.
Bluesky, a new service backed by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, launched its invite-only beta in February and immediately created a buzz on Twitter, with users asking for access codes. Its website says you have 50,000 users. Dorsey has also endorsed another platform called Nostr.
But history is working against Meta. It has suffered multiple failures by launching standalone copycat apps in the past, most notably is the Lasso app aimed at competing with short video rival TikTok.
The company later added a short video tool directly to Instagram, and more recently it divested its unit tasked with building experimental apps as part of a cost-cutting drive.
"Twitter's main use cases still remain keeping up with news and world events," said Enberg. "I find it hard to imagine that the most avid loyal Twitter users who go to Twitter for that type of culture will immediately defect and go to Threads."
However, she said, Meta only needs to convince a quarter of Instagram users to join Thread to compete with Twitter's size. "The truth is, Meta doesn't need to turn Twitter power users into thread users."
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