Threads, Meta’s Twitter rival, is here. Can Zuckerberg’s app match Musk’s? – National

Threads, Meta’s Twitter rival, is here. Can Zuckerberg’s app match Musk’s? – National

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to square off with rival billionaire and Twitter owner Elon Musk, but not necessarily in a supposed cage match the two tech titans have been teasing about as of late.

Threads — Meta’s apparent challenge to Twitter in the microblogging social media space — could have a “killer advantage” that separates it from similar challenges, according to tech analysts, but some question whether the Zuckerberg-run app will fare any better than Musk’s efforts.

Threads launched to users in Canada, the U.S. and more than 100 other countries on Wednesday evening. It is billed as a “text-based conversation app” that is linked to Instagram, with the Apple App Store listing teasing a Twitter-like microblogging experience.

“Threads is where communities come together to discuss everything from the topics you care about today to what’ll be trending tomorrow,” says the listing.

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Meta’s plans to roll out an app mimicking the Twitter experience come as the platform faces increasingly fresh challenges and criticisms under Musk’s ownership.

Twitter has rolled out a series of changes in recent days, including a limit on the number of tweets users can see in a day and a requirement for users to be verified to use the online dashboard TweetDeck.

That comes after a slew of controversial decisions from Musk in the name of promoting free speech on the app, which tech analyst Carmi Levy says has pushed advertisers and users away from the platform and put its future in doubt.

Click to play video: 'Concern Twitter changes could spark surge in misinformation'

Concern Twitter changes could spark surge in misinformation

Levy says that Meta’s timing in launching Threads as Twitter struggles could be the final nail in the platform’s coffin.

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“Twitter has been a never-ending, slow-motion trainwreck for months, skidding from one disaster to another,” he tells Motorcycle accident toronto today. “Certainly, the latest news out of the company could very well be the company’s death blow.”

Can Meta do better than Twitter?

Alternative microblogging sites — such as Mastodon and Bluesky — have seen an uptick in user numbers since Musk’s acquisition, but neither has been able to challenge Twitter’s dominance in the space.

Threads is not the first time that Meta has rolled out features that resemble those of a competitor — Instagram Stories and Reels features work in much the same way that SnapChat and TikTok features do, respectively.

But Levy argues that Threads represents a threat that could succeed where others have thus far failed to dethrone Twitter.

Threads’ “killer advantage” is the built-in network that users will have from their Instagram following, he explains. Whereas other platforms largely force joiners to start from scratch and don’t have the volume of traffic built up to keep users engaged, Threads might well launch with enough content to get off to a running start, Levy says.

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Ease of transition is one thing, but it’s no guarantee that users will flood into the app, another analyst notes.

Matt Navarra, a social media industry analyst, says much of the appetite for Threads will come down to how fed-up users are with Musk’s Twitter.

“I think that there are a lot of people who are not happy on Twitter and are looking for a platform to migrate to,” he says.

Navarra says he thinks Meta’s success with Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp gives it a solid chance to become Twitter’s successor, but the company’s track record is not spotless, either.

Slow uptake on the metaverse initiative has affected investor confidence in the company over the past year, for instance. Navarra says it’s too soon to say whether Meta’s investments on that side of the business will ever pay off.

Click to play video: 'Understanding the Metaverse and its future'

Understanding the Metaverse and its future

But Daniel Tsai, technology law professor at the University of Toronto, is more pessimistic about Meta’s prospects right now.

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The sputtering start to the metaverse, followed by Meta’s attempt to mimic Twitter, shows an attempt to “get back in the game” after losing ground to TikTok in recent years, he says.

“This is a company that is really struggling, and Threads I think it’s just part of their Hail Mary strategy of trying to innovate and to become relevant again with social media,” he says.

Privacy, revenue concerns remain

Meta will also have to overcome reputational concerns about how the company handles its users’ data, according to experts who spoke to Motorcycle accident toronto today.

“Privacy should always be a concern with any platform, particularly with Meta,” Levy says.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal — whereby Facebook users’ personal information was collected and repurposed without their knowledge — remains relatively fresh in many consumers’ memories, Levy says. He cites it as evidence that Meta “plays fast and loose with the rules around our personal data.”

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Privacy issues have been Meta’s “Achilles heel,” Navarra says, but he says the company’s policies and guidelines do not differ materially from those of TikTok or even Twitter itself.

Even if prospective Threads users look past Meta’s history of privacy concerns, Tsai says there’s no guarantee the company can turn a concept similar to Twitter into a profitable business.

Musk has been labouring to turn Twitter’s business around at the same time as Reddit, another text-based platform, is also struggling to generate reliable revenues on the site.

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Bill C-18: Canada won’t be ‘intimidated’ by Google or Meta, Rodriguez says

While Meta might have deeper pockets to pour cash into the platform, Tsai says that in the long run, it won’t necessarily turn microblogging around.

Threads could end up not as the next Twitter, but the next MySpace, he argues.

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“Twitter itself has struggled to monetize itself. And I don’t see that changing with Meta’s Threads,” Tsai says.

While Levy believes Meta’s timing with Threads is advantageous from a competitive perspective, he notes that it may come as the era of big social media starts to sunset.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, social media perhaps saw its last great boom as users logged in to stay connected while the world around them entered lockdowns.

Now, as restrictions end and most return to in-person socialization, many are rethinking whether so much social media exposure is even a good thing, Levy says.

“I think now that we’re on the far side of the pandemic, we’re starting to look at social media with a more critical eye. And I think that’s a good thing. It’s healthy for us to question whether the technologies we use are, in fact benefiting us,” he says.

“This isn’t just a Twitter versus Meta story. It really is the end of an era.”

— with files from Motorcycle accident toronto today’ Anne Gaviola, The Associated Press, Reuters