Two hours after hitting the launch button Wednesday on Threads, Instagram’s new app for real-time, public conversations, Mark Zuckerberg posted that more than two million people have downloaded his latest creation.
That was just the beginning.
Another two hours later, five million people has downloaded Threads. At the time Mr. Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, slept on Wednesday night, the number of downloads increased to 10 million. When he woke up Thursday morning, the app had been downloaded more than 30 million times, he said.
In less than a day, Threads — which aims to rival Twitter — appears to have taken the crown as the fastest downloaded app ever. It easily surpassed ChatGPT, the chatbot, which was downloaded one million times within its first five days, according to OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. And Threads are at breakneck speed 100 million users in two months, a feat achieved only by ChatGPT, according to analytics firm Similarweb.
Some of Twitter’s most followed users — like Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Shakira and Oprah Winfrey — immediately joined Threads and started posting. The atmosphere was festive, with users writing congratulatory messages and expressing eagerness to read each other’s posts. At one point, the new app was so flooded with users that it seemed unstable.
“This is as good a start as we could hope for!” Mr. Zuckerberg, whose company owns Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp, said in a post on Threads on Thursday. He later added, “It feels like the start of something special.”
The early momentum underscores people’s desire to find an alternative to Twitter, the 17-year-old digital town square that has long been a hub for public conversation online. Since Elon Musk bought Twitter last year, the billionaire has instituted changes that have angered longtime users of the social platform, especially those who don’t care for his laissez-faire approach to content moderation. Twitter also suffered more outages and bugs.
Mr. does not take Mr. Musk’s actions Zuckerberg lying down. In a letter dated Wednesday, lawyers for Twitter threatened legal action against Meta, accusing it of using trade secrets from its former employees to develop Threads. Twitter also asked Meta to preserve internal documents related to a dispute between the two companies. The letter is previously reported by Semaphore.
“Competition is good, cheating is not,” Mr. Musk tweeted on Thursday.
Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, also jabbed at the new app of Mr. Zuckerberg. “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 7 Twitter clones,” he tweeted on Thursday.
In a post on Threads, Andy Stone, a Meta spokesperson, said that no ex-Twitter engineers work on Threads. “That’s just not the case,” he wrote.
The threads were a surprise hit for Meta, which badly needed a win after coming under fire for spreading misinformation and other toxic content on the internet. While the social network of Mr. Zuckerberg was celebrated in its early days, but in recent years it has come under fire from regulators, activists and users angry at how the company handles its data and products. Meta also faces questions about its move into the still-emerging immersive digital world of the so-called metaverse.
But this week was a reprieve — albeit a brief one — for Mr. Zuckerberg and his company. Inside Meta on Wednesday night, employees rejoiced at the launch of Threads, sharing jokes and memes with each other, according to screenshots of conversations seen by The New York Times.
One employee noticed that morale was rising internally after a year of layoffs and retrenching at the company. Another shared a meme of two characters from the 1999 movie “The Mummy,” telling each other that Twitter has been “replaced by Meta,” according to a screenshot.
Threads was a crash project that emerged from Instagram seven months ago, after the company decided it wanted to “make a bet” and take on Twitter, said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram.
The project, named “Project 92,” is a top secret, two people familiar with the project said. The team was small, and the rest of Meta didn’t have access to early versions of the app, they said.
Celebrities, brands and influencers have been given early access to the app in the past few days, a move by Meta to start a freewheeling culture of fun and discussion. Mr. Mosseri said he wants Threads to be a “friendly place” for public conversation.
“Can’t get enough of your threads,” actress Jennifer Lopez said in a Threads post, adding a musical notes emoji. Ms. DeGeneres, in her first Threads post, wrote, “Welcome to Gay Twitter!”
However, such early momentum does not necessarily translate into long-term engagement and success. Twitter still leads the way, with more than 237 million daily users, according to the latest public figures the company cited last year. Meta also continues to face questions about its data privacy policies.
Some Threads users have also been put off by an issue that may require them to delete their connected Instagram account if they want to delete their Threads account. Instagram said it is looking into alternative ways for Threads users to deactivate their accounts.
Instagram appears to be taking a hands-on approach to what can and cannot be posted in Threads to create a “friendly” app for conversations, Mr. Zuckerberg.
Throughout the app, Threads cloaks some posts behind a warning box stating that the content has been “reviewed by independent fact-checkers” and determined to be misleading. Users can click a button in the warning box to display the content. An additional pop-up box includes a brief explanation about why the content was hidden and a link to a post by the fact checkers who made the decision.
Threads also appear to hide some comments entirely. Tomi Lahren, a right-wing influencer, asked in her first post on the app, “Is Meta also censoring conservative thought here?” — a jab against major social networks that have moderated false and misleading content in the past. Below the comments section of his post, a label appeared saying: “Some responses are unavailable.”
Another warning appeared when users tried to follow some influencers who had previously been flagged by Meta for publishing false or misleading content.
“Are you sure you want to follow” the person, the warning asked. “This account has repeatedly posted false information that has been checked by independent fact-checkers or is in violation of our Community Guidelines.” The same warning appears on attempts to follow those users’ Instagram profiles.
For new Threads users like Kate Stone, a 63-year-old attorney in North Carolina, having content properly moderated is essential. He has a dormant Twitter account and once dreamed of owning a Tesla, the electric cars that Mr. Musk, but gave up on the two when the tech billionaire began tweeting politically conservative messages. But he wanted to be part of the public conversation online, and he thought Threads might be a way to do that.
“I read about Threads, and I don’t really like Zuckerberg, but I found it easy to do if you have an Instagram account,” Ms. Stone in an interview. “So I thought I’d give it a try.”
Stuart A. Thompson and Cade Metz contributed reporting.