Threads: Meta’s Twitter clone gains a foothold

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Twitter’s constant crises have now put it “at imminent risk of losing its status as the watercooler of the internet,” said Dave Lee in Bloomberg. Meta last week took direct aim at Twitter with its Threads app, gaining 100 million users within days of launch. The eye-opening debut was a “master class” in launching a new app. Anyone on Instagram could easily migrate their information onto Threads, which instantly “populated feeds with accounts users already knew, and others they would perhaps like to,” leapfrogging the “cold start” problem that has tripped up other clones that have tried to find an opening in the chaos that has engulfed Twitter since Elon Musk bought it seven months ago. And Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems to be “relishing the sense” that he’s “rescuing Twitter users from the Musk regime.” Musk, meanwhile, is having a meltdown, said Erik Uebelacker in The Daily Beast. He filed a lawsuit “accusing Meta of poaching ex-Twitter employees to create the ‘copycat’ app.” And making sure to add insult to litigation, he also called Zuckerberg a “cuck,” a derogatory term embraced by the Right fringe, in a tweet.

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Zuckerberg saw his opportunity here because of how bad Musk is at running a social media site, said Charlie Warzel in The Atlantic. Just last week, Musk decided to limit how many tweets people can view. Musk suggested that he wanted to prevent third parties from scraping user data from the site. But it was a “baffling” decision for a platform that depends on engaging viewers. Unfortunately, it’s nothing new for Musk, who has “degraded the reliability of Twitter’s service, filled the platform with bigots and spam, and alienated many of its power users.”

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The new app “functions almost exactly like Twitter,” said Sara Fischer in Axios. It’s not the first time Meta has “cloned and conquered” a successful product — like its TikTok copycat Reels and its Snapchat copycat Stories — and regulators have noticed. The Federal Trade Commission is already pursuing a case against Meta for “buying and cloning rivals to box them out.” Zuckerberg is pitching Threads as a “friendlier” alternative to Twitter, but it raises many of the same concerns about moderation, said Katie Paul in Reuters. “Within hours of launch, Threads accounts were posting about the Illuminati and ‘billionaire satanists,’ while other users compared each other to Nazis and battled over everything from gender identity to violence in the West Bank.”

I wish Threads were a throwback to old Twitter, but it isn’t, said Kyle Chayka in The New Yorker. What once made Twitter great was its commitment to real-time information. But its “usefulness for breaking news has decayed under Musk,” who has driven away news gatherers and news makers in favor of trolls and fabricators. For Threads or any social media app “to have a chance to kill Twitter,” said Molly Roberts in The Washington Post, “people must let go of Twitter; for people to let go of Twitter, Twitter truly has to die.” The good news for Meta is that “Musk seems to be well on his way” to killing his own company.

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