Threads, which was launched to millions on Wednesday, bears a striking resemblance to Twitter and has been marketed by Meta as a "friendly" alternative. Twitter's Elon Musk has voiced his opinion on the matter, stating, "competition is fine, cheating is not." However, Meta has refuted allegations in a legal letter claiming that former Twitter employees assisted in the creation of Threads.
The Numbers Game
Threads has seen a surge in sign-ups, with more than 70 million people registering for the new app, according to Meta. In comparison, Twitter has an estimated user base of 350 million, as per Statista. Interestingly, it took Twitter four years to amass the same number of users that Threads gained in a day. However, it's worth noting that Twitter built its user base from scratch, while Threads leveraged the pre-existing two billion monthly users of Instagram, another Meta property.
The Legal Angle
The user interface and functionality of Threads are remarkably similar to those of Twitter, as noted by BBC News technology reporter James Clayton. However, US copyright law does not protect ideas, so for Twitter to win in court, it would need to demonstrate that its intellectual property, such as programming code, was stolen.
Twitter attorney Alex Spiro sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg accusing Meta of "systematic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter's trade secrets and other intellectual property" to create Threads. Spiro alleged that Meta had hired dozens of former Twitter employees who had access to Twitter's trade secrets and confidential information, which helped Meta develop the "copycat" Threads app.
In response to a post on Twitter referring to the legal letter, Musk stated that "competition is fine, cheating is not." On Threads, Meta spokesperson Andy Stone denied the allegations, stating that "no one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee - that's just not a thing."
The Future of Threads
Sarah Kunst, managing director at venture capital firm Cleo Capital, suggested that Threads could provide a "brand-safe environment" for existing Instagram advertisers. She predicted a steady increase in users for the app, which has made it easy to cross-post to other platforms like Instagram.
Both Musk and Zuckerberg have acknowledged the rivalry over Threads, which operates as a standalone app linked to Instagram. As Threads launched in 100 countries, Zuckerberg posted a meme of two nearly identical Spider-Man figures pointing at each other, indicating a stand-off. Shortly after, Musk responded with a tweet stating, "It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram."
Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino tweeted that while the platform is "often imitated," it "can never be duplicated." Both Meta and Twitter have undergone significant layoffs this year, with Meta announcing in April that it would cut staff levels by approximately 10,000. Twitter lost a large proportion of its 7,500 employees, as high as 80%, in waves of redundancies following Musk's takeover last October.
Technomancer is a science and tech enthusiast who enjoys writing about software and AI and other tech topics.