One week in, Threads has become Twitter’s biggest threat

Threads is the fastest growing app of all time, while Twitter's traffic is "tanking."

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Meta’s Twitter rival, Threads, has unquestionably had the best first-week imaginable. After immediately racing to the top of app store charts, it became the fastest growing app of all time. In just five days, it grew to more than 100 million users, beating out chatGPT and TikTok which both previously held the record.

That’s even more impressive considering the app isn’t available in the European Union, one of Meta’s most important markets. And while Threads clearly borrowed some moves from Meta’s growth-hacking playbook, like sending would-be users notifications on Instagram and pre-populating their feeds with content and followers, Mark Zuckerberg called most of the early growth “organic.”

“That's mostly organic demand and we haven't even turned on many promotions yet,” he wrote in a celebratory post on Threads. However you spin it, it's clearly bad news for Twitter.

While it’s too soon to know if Threads’ early success will translate in the long term, it has succeeded in utterly dominating Twitter in its first week. Every available metric suggests that Threads is not just a viral hit in its own right, but is doing so at the direct expense of Twitter.

Just days after Threads launched, Matthew Prince, CEO of DNS service Cloudflare, said that Twitter’s traffic was “tanking.” He shared a graph showing that visits to had sharply dipped since the end of June, around the time Elon Musk began restricting how many tweets users could view, and a few days later when Threads launched.

Data from analytics firm SimilarWeb suggests the same pattern. According to the company, traffic to dipped 5 percent in the two days following Threads' launch, compared with the same period the previous week. The firm notes that this is in addition to an “overall decline” in traffic that predates Threads.

There are other signs that Threads may be succeeding in luring away current Twitter users. A recent poll from Ipsos found that 58% of American Twitter users said they were likely to try, or have already tried, Threads. 46% of American Twitter users said they were “likely to move or have already moved the activity they used to do on Twitter to Threads.”

It’s worth noting that these are all very early metrics. Early virality for an app doesn’t necessarily equate to long-term success or sustained growth. Google+ was once praised for “meteoric” growth when it hit 100 million users less than a year after its launch more than a decade ago. In the more recent past, social audio app Clubhouse was heralded as a sensation when it grew to a few million users in its first months of existence. Both eventually fizzled out.

And there are signs that Twitter does have a core group of dedicated, blue-checkmark-buying users. The same Ipsos poll found that more than half of American Twitter users were uninterested in migrating to Threads, at least in the near term. And data recently released by app analytics firm Sensor Tower suggests that Twitter’s engagement held steady in the days following Threads’ launch, while average time spent in Threads actually dipped.

Elon Musk and newly-installed Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino seem eager to bolster this narrative. The two touted their own — somewhat dubious — metric following Threads' launch, claiming that the same week saw the “largest usage day since February” on the platform. “Cumulative user-seconds per day of phone screentime, as reported by iOS & Android, is hardest to game,” Musk wrote. (It’s unclear how he was measuring “cumulative user-seconds” of screen time as neither Apple or Google report screen time metrics to app developers.)

Twitter’s leadership has more than enough reason to be rattled by Threads’ overnight success. While a wave of Twitter alternatives has cropped up in the wake of Musk’s chaotic takeover of Twitter, none have come even close to 100 million. Mastodon, its most entrenched rival, reports 2 million monthly users. Bluesky, the much-hyped invite-only service, has about 300,000 sign-ups.

Even more importantly, Threads has succeeded in nabbing a key demographic many of its predecessors haven’t: brands. Threads has been an all-out brands bonanza. And as much as that’s made for cringey, milquetoast content on the app, it’s very, very good for Meta. For now, brands are getting the kind of organic engagement most social media managers only dream about. As Website Plant recently pointed out in a report, big brands are attracting significantly more engagement on Threads, compared with Twitter. This is true even for brands that have far more followers on Twitter than on Threads.

According to the report, 87% of brands got more likes on Threads posts than on Twitter. “The vast majority of the posts we went through generated significantly higher engagement on the new platform — no matter if the content itself was the same as on Twitter,” the company wrote.

Again, these are early stats. It’s entirely possible that users on Threads are engaging more with brands simply because that what was shoved into their feeds, not because Meta somehow made the content more appealing. But that kind of early engagement will certainly make brands more willing to give Meta ad dollars whenever they do open advertising on the platform.

Zuckerberg has said the company won’t introduce ads to Threads until there’s a “clear path to 1 billion people” on the app. But that doesn’t mean Threads will be ad-free for long. According to Axios, the company has already begun to work on branded content tools for the service, and “is working to quickly make them available.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Wall Street analysts are also enthused about Threads’ prospects. The week-old platform could add up to $8 billion in revenue for Meta by 2025, according to an estimate from one analyst, reported by Bloomberg.

All this is especially bleak for Musk and Twitter, which is facing a financial outlook so dire the company has stopped paying numerous bills. According to a report from The New York Times last month, Twitter’s ad sales — its primary source of revenue — have plummeted 59% compared with last year, with performance “unlikely to improve anytime soon.” And, now, Meta has swooped in, pretty much overnight, with a huge new platform poised to gobble up Twitter’s missing ad dollars and then some.

While this likely brings some satisfaction to Musk and Twitter’s biggest critics, it’s worth noting that there are significant implications to an online ecosystem where yet another Meta-owned platform dominates its closest rivals. Meta, and Instagram specifically, has very different norms and standards about what kind of speech is acceptable on its service. And there are still more questions than answers about Meta’s plans to integrate Threads into the broader Fediverse.

But it’s impossible to ignore just how much momentum Threads has gained in its first week, and how much of it has come at the direct expense of Twitter.

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