Less than a day after its launch Wednesday, millions of users joined the short-form, text-based social media site Threads, which parent company Meta positions as a rival to Twitter.

Threads, owned by Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, allows users to sign up with their Instagram handle and import their list of followed accounts from the photo-sharing app.

By Thursday, 40 million users, including celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Will Smith and Oprah Winfrey, had joined the site.

Meta has described Threads as a text-based version of Instagram. Visually, the app resembles a mix of Twitter and Instagram. Users can make posts up to 500 characters in length and include photos, links or video.

A product page for the Threads mobile app in the Apple App Store shows screenshots of Meta’s new social media platform that has been billed as a rival to Twitter. The app resembles a mix of Twitter and Instagram, where users can make posts up to 500 characters in length and include photos, links or video. (Image via Apple App Store)

At launch, Threads lacks many features offered by Twitter, such as direct messaging to other users or using hashtags. Additionally, Threads lacks a search function and locks users into a continuously scrolling feed with a mix of algorithmically-suggested posts and posts by accounts the user follows, unlike Twitter, which gives users the ability to see chronological posts from accounts they follow.

San Jose State University Prof. Ahmed Banafa, a technology expert and engineering instructor, said that Threads had a head-start on other Twitter competitors due to the built-in users with Instagram accounts and the experience and scale of their parent company.

“They have the ability to scale up very quickly, meaning they have the engineering teams that are used to dealing with billions of users,” said Banafa.

“We’re often imitated — but the Twitter community can never be duplicated.”

Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino

Threads is currently not available for download in the European Union due to privacy and data concerns.

“The EU said no, until Meta fixes the privacy settings and gives them assurances about the use of data,” said Banafa.

According to its app store listing, Threads collects user data including web browsing history, phone contacts, financial information, precise location and health and fitness information.

Putting the competition in stitches

The rollout of Threads comes at a time of turmoil for its biggest competitor, Twitter.

Since Tesla CEO Elon Musk purchased the San Francisco social media giant for $44 billion last year, the company has laid off thousands of employees and Musk has claimed in Tweets that the social media platform was facing bankruptcy. Last week, Twitter began limiting the number of posts users could view a day, saying in a statement that it was a temporary measure to combat “extreme” levels of data theft.

On Thursday, lawyers representing Twitter sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, threatening a lawsuit unless immediate action is taken to stop using “Twitter trade secrets” in their code.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduces his company’s new Threads social media app Wednesday in a Reel posted on Facebook. More than 40 million users reportedly signed on to the new service within a day of its launch. Rival Twitter has threatened legal action against Meta, alleging violation of trade secrets in development of the Threads app. (Screenshot via Facebook)

Banafa looks at it as a “badge of honor” for Meta.

“That’s a sign that they’re successful. I mean, he didn’t do it to Bluesky, he didn’t do it to Mastodon, the others, he didn’t even talk to them.”

Musk has taken to criticizing the rival platform on Twitter, calling attention to the data that is collected by Threads after users download the app and responding with laughing emojis to other users poking fun at Meta’s app.

“It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than indulge in the false happiness of hide-the-pain Instagram,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.

When asked for comment, Twitter’s official press email auto-replied with a poop emoji.

Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino released a statement on Twitter Thursday in reference to Meta’s rival social media platform.

“We’re often imitated — but the Twitter community can never be duplicated,” said Yaccarino.

Banafa said that ultimately, social media users will come out on top of the battle between billionaire CEOs.

“We are the winners here, because the more competition the better. The better the platform, the better the services,” said Banafa. “They’re competing to keep us on their platforms.”

Spencer Otte recently graduated from Cal Sate Fullerton, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. At Fullerton, he was the news editor and editor-in-chief of The Daily Titan and covered the 2022 midterm elections, the 2021 Orange County Oil Spill and President Biden’s visit to Irvine. This summer, Spencer was selected to be an editing intern through the Dow Jones News Fund.