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Threads, Meta’s Twitter Alternative, Captures 100 Million Users in 5 Days

Instagram’s more than a billion users can sign up with ease

spinner image a smartphone screen showing thread in front of a logo

Rivals have been gunning for Twitter ever since billionaire boss Elon Musk took ownership of the social media outlet this past October, especially after he laid off more than 80 percent of its employees and made several controversial decisions​.

The latest is limits on the number of posts users can view. Then came July 6, when a fellow billionaire and fierce Musk adversary, Mark Zuckerberg, launched what appears to be the first serious challenger to Twitter.

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It is called Threads, an Instagram app, and that’s the way it's listed on Google’s Play Store for Android smartphones and the App Store for iPhones and iPads. By adapting the Instagram platform to power Threads, Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook and Instagram parent Meta, has made it easy for users to sign up with their Instagram credentials and invite the people who follow them there to do the same on Threads.

@AARP is on Threads

You can now follow AARP on Threads and six other social media accounts:

Threads burst onto the scene with more than 100 million user sign-ups and counting in just five days. That bested the 100 million users ChatGPT amassed in its first two months, according to the analytics firm Similarweb. The company previously cited ChatGPT as the fastest-growing app, according to The New York Times.

You’ll be reminded of Twitter

Threads isn’t a replica of Twitter, introduced in 2006, but it comes close in this first iteration. Hours after the app’s debut, a lawyer for Twitter sent a letter to Zuckerberg accusing Meta of “misappropriation” of intellectual property.

Posts, or “threads,” are like real-time tweets. They can be up to 500 characters long and include links, photos and videos of up to five minutes. You can repost and quote others’ threads, the Threads equivalent of retweets. You can tap a heart icon to express your approval.

“Our vision with Threads is to take what Instagram does best and expand that to text, creating a positive and creative space to express your ideas,” Meta wrote in a press release.

The Musk-Zuckerberg animus seems to be genuine. After the Threads launch, Meta’s CEO actually went on Twitter to tweet a playful picture of a Spider-Man face-off, his first tweet in 11 years. The two men are also reportedly considering duking it out in a cage match — for real.

If you’re curious about Threads, here are some of the basics:

How do I sign up for Threads?

Download the app from Google Play or the App Store. If you are already on Instagram, signing up is as simple as logging in with your username and password. You’ll have to create an Instagram account if you don’t already have one, which you can do on the Instagram app or at Web signups for Threads apparently come later.

Next, you can write a bio or accept the one you already have on Instagram and add a link.

At the outset, you can choose to go with a public profile so anyone on or off Threads can see, share and interact with your content. Or you can go with a private profile that limits who can see and interact with your content to only those you approve.

You can change these settings later, and a privacy profile on Threads can be different from your profile on Instagram. A caveat: If you have second thoughts, you can deactivate Threads, but to delete it, you’ll also have to delete your Instagram account.

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Whom can I follow?

The short answer is, the same accounts you follow on Instagram. Tap the Follow button next to each name you want to follow.

Or follow all those you follow on Instagram if they have a public profile on Threads. You can also request to follow people who have a private profile. If your Instagram friends haven’t joined yet, you’ll see “pending” next to their name.

You can unfollow folks as well, but doing so means they’ll be blocked from seeing you on both Instagram and Threads.

You can follow public figures who have public accounts. Early accounts have been spotted for the Dalai Lama, Jennifer Lopez, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, Shakira and Oprah Winfrey.

Are my friends here?

Because of Thread’s tight relationship with Instagram, chances are good the answer is yes, or soon will be. It is too early to determine how many people 50 and older have joined, but if folks in your Facebook and Instagram circle are of age, expect to see many of them here.

Does the platform have accessibility features?

Yes, they are the same as on Instagram. That means screen reader support and AI-generated image descriptions.

Isn’t this a work in progress?

For sure, and Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged as much. Wall Street Journal personal tech columnist Joanna Stern listed numerous missing features in one of her own threads, including no #hashtag support, no feed of only the people you follow, no content search, no edit button and no characters-remaining indicator.

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I’m worried about privacy. Should I be here?

Meta and Facebook don’t have a stellar record when it comes to user privacy. Exhibit A: Facebook recently agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 2018. That’s also the year that Facebook conceded that as many as 87 million user profiles may have been improperly shared with British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

When you join Threads, you agree to adhere to Meta’s privacy policy and a supplemental Threads privacy policy. And this is a company whose lifeblood is user data.

For the moment anyway, Threads has no ads.

Does anything go contentwise?

It remains to be seen how Meta will police Threads’ content, but its profiles and content follow Instagram’s existing community guidelines, including a long list of no-nos. That means no:

  • “Dangerous” organizations
  • Eating disorders
  • False information
  • Hate speech
  • Nudity
  • Scams and fraud
  • Sexual activity
  • Spam
  • Suicide or self-injury
  • Violence

You can report profiles of people posting offensive content or those pretending to be someone they are not.

Are profiles verified?

If you have a “verified” badge as part of your Instagram profile, it will carry over to Threads.

What are other Twitter alternatives?

Roughly a dozen exist, some that predate Musk’s Twitter acquisition. The list includes Mastodon; Spill; former President Trump’s Truth Social; and invite-only Bluesky, the brainchild of former Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey. But none of these would-be rivals have so far gained the traction of Threads.

That said, future versions of Threads will work as part of a “fediverse,” a social media network that will allow you to follow and interact with folks on different platforms, Meta says.​

This story, originally published July 6, 2023, has been updated to reflect additional Threads registrations.

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