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Meta takes aim at Twitter with launch of rival app Threads

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LONDON — Meta on Thursday unveiled an app to rival Twitter, appearing to target users looking for an alternative to the social media platform owned – and frequently modified – by Elon Musk.

Called Threads, the new offering is billed as a text-based version of Meta’s Instagram photo-sharing app, which the company says provides “a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations.”

The app is available on Apple and Google Android app stores in over 100 countries, including the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, and Japan.

Users will get a Twitter-like microblogging experience, according to screenshots provided to media, suggesting Meta Platforms is preparing to directly challenge the platform after Musk’s tumultuous ownership led to a series of unpopular changes that put off users and advertisers.

There are buttons for liking, reposting, replying to, or quoting a “thread”, and counters showing how many likes and replies a post has received.

“Our vision is that Threads will be a new, more text- and dialogue-focused app, inspired by what Instagram has done for photo and video,” the company said.

Messages are limited to 500 characters, which is above Twitter’s 280-character threshold, and can include links, photos and videos up to five minutes long.

Instagram users will be able to log in with their existing usernames and follow the same accounts on the new app. New users will need to create an Instagram account.

Meta has emphasized measures to keep users safe, including enforcing Instagram community guidelines and providing tools to control who can mention or reply to users.

Meta’s new offering, however, has raised data privacy concerns.

Threads may collect a wide range of personal information, including health, finances, contacts, browsing and search history, location data, purchases and “sensitive information,” according to its privacy disclosure. data on the App Store.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey pointed this out in a sarcastic tweet saying, “All your feeds belong to us” that included a screenshot of the disclosure. Musk replied “yeah”.

One location where Threads won’t be rolled out is in the European Union, which has strict data privacy rules.

Meta has informed the Irish Data Privacy Commission that it is not yet considering launching Threads in the 27-nation bloc, commission spokesman Graham Doyle said. The Irish watchdog is Meta’s main privacy regulator for the EU, as the company’s regional headquarters are based in Dublin.

While Meta had teased Threads with a listing on Apple’s UK App Store earlier this week, it could not be found in the French, German or Dutch versions. The company is working on rolling out the app to more countries, but cites regulatory uncertainty for its decision to delay a European launch.

Analysts said its success is far from guaranteed, citing Meta’s track record of starting standalone apps that were later shut down.

The question is also whether it’s the right move for Meta, which has announced tens of thousands of layoffs over the past year amid a slowdown in the tech industry.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also focused on the metaverse, investing tens of billions of dollars in the concept of virtual reality.

Meta risks “spreading too much,” said Mike Proulx, director of research at Forrester, a global market research firm. “Meta is betting on a moment in time amid peak Twitter frustration. However, this window of opportunity is already flooded with Twitter alternatives, including Bluesky, Mastodon, Spill, Post.News, and Hive, all of which are vying for Twitter’s market share.”

Even so, Threads could be a new headache for Musk, who acquired Twitter last year for $44 billion.

It made a series of changes that sparked backlash, the latest being daily limits on the number of tweets people can see to try to prevent unauthorized scraping of potentially valuable data. It also now requires paid verification for users to access the TweetDeck online dashboard.

Musk’s rivalry with Zuckerberg could end up spilling over into real life. During an online exchange, the two tech billionaires have apparently agreed to a cage match, although it’s unclear if they will actually make it to the ring.

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