Meta Platforms Inc.’s new entry into the social media space, Threads, has seized an opportune moment amid much frustration with Twitter, with Mark Zuckerberg also deploying elements of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s well-known copycat tactic.
Chief Executive Zuckerberg is no stranger to mimicking good ideas from other tech competitors. While not everything has succeeded, Instagram Stories, a copy of Snap Inc.’s
chat’s ephemeral Stories on Snapchat, and Reels in the vein of TikTok’s popular short-form videos with effects, have kept consumers engaged with Meta’s less-hip, but sprawling social empire of three billion plus users.
“Jobs was the king of seeing, of letting someone else take a lead and coming in either second or third and doing it better than anybody, especially with the iPod, the iPhone and even the Apple Watch,” said Tim Bajarin, chairman of Creative Strategies, a tech market research firm. “While I do think Zuck has some of that mentality anyway, this is more of an opportunistic position.”
With Threads, Zuckerberg and Co. have copied many elements of the microblogging site Twitter, after seeing an opportunity for an alternative to the contentious, toxic conversations that have become a key feature of Twitter, even more so since Elon Musk acquired the company for $44 billion late last year.
“He has lost users, he has lost advertisers. And at the moment, he can change course at a whim, as he did last weekend when he limited how many Tweets you could read,” Bajarin added. “The fact is that a lot of the world does not trust his leadership of Twitter and they really are looking for an alternative.”
In one of the fastest growing social media launches ever, Threads reached 70 million plus sign ups as of Friday afternoon, after an earlier than expected launch late Thursday, taking advantage of its existing user base and making it easy to import followers from Instagram.
But the big question is will most of these users keep coming back to the app, which is still lacking several important features, as it works out the kinks to get started. Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, said that Meta has a lot of ways to offer its vast audience to get onto Threads, which it has not yet resorted to.
“Facebook was originally totally viral, that was the thing that worked so well,” Kay said. “But they have this additional market power now, they have a huge pool of very important information for themselves. If they upsell even a tiny bit, they are looking at incremental revenue, eventually.”
The imitation element of Threads has indeed got Musk in a lather, and his attorney sent Zuckerberg a a letter about his serious concern that Meta has engaged in “systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation” of Twitter’s “trade secrets” and other intellectual property. Additionally, another app called Thread, was launched in 2016, and developed by Cynthia Zordich, wife of retired NFL player Michael Zordich, as a way to connect other women tied to professional football.
Wall Street, for now, is keeping any enthusiasm about Threads tamped down, with some analysts who cover Meta noting that the new app will initially generate incremental revenue, at best, likely starting in 2024. But it’s clear that after his major miscues and extravagant spending on the unproven Metaverse, which led to massive cost-cutting in the last year, Zuckerberg has regained some clout with investors. Whether he maintains it, time will tell.