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Meta launches fast-growing Threads app; Twitter threatens Meta

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Facebook parent company Meta is making a splash with its new app, Threads. It's a rival to Twitter. And in the first couple of days, more than 70 million people have downloaded it already. In response, Twitter owner Elon Musk is on the defensive and is threatening legal action. NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn joins us to catch up on this. Hey, Bobby.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

DETROW: So there have been so many Twitter rivals that have just been instant duds. What is it about Threads that has made it such a hit so quickly?

ALLYN: A few things. First is Meta. We know they own Instagram, one of the most popular social media apps, and Threads works by basically building on top of Instagram. So you download the Threads app, and with one click, you can port over everyone who follows you on Instagram into Threads. And some of these other Twitter rivals, like Mastodon and Bluesky and Post and so on, one of the key challenges was it was hard to, like, build the following that many people had on Twitter. But with Instagram, just one click, you can do that, so it's taking off.

Another reason why it's taking off, of course, is Twitter under Elon Musk. It's chaotic. It's unpredictable. Policy decisions come and go at the erratic whims of Elon Musk. And Meta has just poured real engineering resources into this. It's sleek. It's simple. It's clean. Yeah. I mean, if anyone was going to try to sink Twitter in a successful way, it was going to be meta. And it's been a runaway success so far.

DETROW: And this happens a week or so after Twitter saw even more, you know - the most unprecedented yet levels of dysfunction with limits on who could even view tweets. Elon Musk is threatening to sue Zuckerberg over Threads now, saying Meta basically stole his intellectual property. Is there anything to this?

ALLYN: I think before I answer that, we should look at the state of Twitter. Advertisers are fleeing in droves. Users are also rapidly leaving. The platform is worth much, much less than what it was when Elon bought it. You know, some 75% of the staff is gone. Elon Musk is really in a desperate position right here. And into that comes Mark Zuckerberg, who launches a Twitter clone that basically does everything that Twitter does, except his executives at Meta say it's a more sanely run platform.

And Musk saw this and said, you know what? I think this is copyright. This is taking my intellectual property and has his lawyer sending me a legal letter. We'll see how this plays out. But at this point, the letter, Scott, is kind of saber-rattling on behalf of Elon Musk and really nothing more than that.

DETROW: What do you think of it personally so far? I feel like for me, it's kind of strange to - like, you follow people, but that's not necessarily who you see when you open your phone. I'm having a hard time with that.

ALLYN: I don't love Threads so far. I find that my feed on Twitter and my feed on Instagram are very separate. When I log on to Threads, I just see updates from people who are saying things I don't care about, to be honest. I mean, I go on Twitter to, you know, hear what's going on among fellow reporters, among newsmakers, among people in Silicon Valley because that's what I cover.

And when I go on Threads, I'm just seeing, you know, updates from influencers and from creators and from somebody I added on Instagram 10 years ago, and I forgot they even existed. So for me, it's not really great, but you know, it's early. We're only a couple days in. This is early innings, so it surely can change. But right now the algorithm's not really giving me what I want.

DETROW: I did just follow you on Threads though. You should know.

ALLYN: Oh, you did.

DETROW: Yeah.

ALLYN: I'll follow you right back, Scott.

DETROW: All right. There you go.

ALLYN: Give me a sec.

DETROW: That's Bobby Allyn, our tech reporter. Thanks so much.

ALLYN: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.
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