After months of speculation, varying launch dates, and names, Meta’s alternative to Twitter launched last week to an enormous response, surpassing 100 million users in just five days. The launch of Threads has been “way beyond our expectations,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday.  For a point of comparison, it took Twitter five years to hit 100 million users, TikTok nine months, and ChatGPT two months. Threads is available in 100 countries, but not yet in Europe, where there is more regulatory complexity to navigate.

Those that have signed up are using it – in the first day there were more than 95 million posts and 190 million likes. The challenge going forward will be keeping users engaged on the platform long-term. One opportunity for stickiness will be for Threads to offer an escape from the toxic discourse on other platforms, as some users are already hopeful for. Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has stated that Threads will not promote politics or hard news discussions to avoid unwanted negativity.

Is this too idealistic?  Zuckerberg wants to make “kindness” central to the app’s appeal, in reference to concerns that rival platform Twitter (with more than 250 million users) has become too hostile for some. “The goal is to keep it friendly as it expands. I think it’s possible and will ultimately be the key to its success,” wrote Zuckerberg on Threads. “That’s one reason why Twitter never succeeded as much as I think it should have, and we want to do it differently.”  In a following Thread, he added “We are definitely focusing on kindness and making this a friendly place.” 

The booming user growth on Threads is largely driven by its direct connection to Instagram. Users can sign up with their existing profiles, and are able to carry their Instagram following onto Threads as others sign up for the app. This ease of use and transfer of audience has allowed many brands to sign on as early adopters, like Dunkin’​ and American Eagle, who are already experimenting with unique engagement and content strategies. 

Backlash from Twitter CEO Elon Musk has been immediate, with Musk threatening lawsuits alleging the app is a “copycat” and that Meta hired former Twitter employees and stole trade secrets to launch the project. Meta has denied the allegations. The decline on Twitter is already being seen – according to Similarweb, web traffic to Twitter was down 5% in the first two days of the Threads launch compared with the previous week. The company said Twitter’s web traffic is down 11% compared with to the same period in 2022.

Threads bears a strong resemblance to Twitter, as do numerous other sites that have cropped up in recent months (Mastodon, Bluesky) as users have chaffed Musk’s management of the service. Threads has main feed, search, activity, and profile tabs, and allows posts that are up to 500 characters long, supporting links, photos, and videos of up to five minutes.

Although not the case presently, the aim is to make Threads compatible with ActivityPub, a decentralized social networking protocol that allows interconnection with other apps that use the protocol. Decentralization would mean Threads users can interact with accounts on different social media platforms. For example, someone on Mastodon could request to follow your Threads account, and you could approve or deny that request directly from within Threads. You could then follow their Mastodon posts in your Threads feed, without ever creating a Mastodon account. While not yet available, this is one of the most exciting developments on the horizon.

There are some key functions the app lacks – there is currently no direct messaging feature or desktop version, which business organizations rely on. There are no hashtag and keyword search functions, which limits both its appeal to advertisers and its utility as a place for following real-time events like users frequently do on Twitter. Still, analysts say the turmoil at Twitter, including recently imposed limits on the number on tweets users can see, could help Threads to attract users and advertisers. There are no ads currently on the Threads app, and Zuckerberg has said the company will only think about monetization once there is a clear path to 1 billion users.

The Net-Net: Threads could be the Twitter killer that platforms like BlueSky and Mastodon have failed to become. Meta’s ecosystem gives it a hefty cushion to fall back on and a unique advertising angle that its predecessor never had, and the soon-to-come decentralized protocol will be hugely disruptive in the space.  All eyes are on continued growth as advertising opportunities are soon to follow.