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Threads, Meta's competitor to Twitter, is off to a fast start

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

There's been Bluesky and Mastodon and Post News and Hive Social and on and on and on - all social media platforms aimed at competing with Twitter, especially the version of Twitter that's owned by Elon Musk. But as of Wednesday, there's now Threads. It comes from Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. And Threads has now done what the others have not. It's gathered tens of millions of signups within its first few days. Tech journalist and podcaster Kara Swisher is on Threads and following the story. Kara, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

KARA SWISHER: Thank you. I'm busy making Threads. I think that's what they're called.

DETROW: If you say so. I'm still not sure. So, I mean, I did not sign up for any of those other ones. I have signed up for Threads. I am engaging with Threads. This does initially feel different for a lot of reasons. What are your first impressions?

SWISHER: So I think an initial - the initial rollout is quite excellent. And he launched it very smartly on Instagram, really, using your Instagram graph, if you have an Instagram account. And most people do because people like Instagram and don't affiliate it so much with Facebook and a lot of the issues. And so that's what they're trying to do here - is make an enjoyable social network.

DETROW: I mean, as often as Meta has successfully copied parts of other social apps - I'm thinking about Instagram Stories cloning Snapchat and becoming, you know, the main way most people interact with Instagram at this point - it's also failed at this so many times. What are...

SWISHER: Right.

DETROW: ...One or two things you're looking for to see if this actually takes off?

SWISHER: Well, it hasn't failed at social networks. You know what I mean? It's failed at a phone. It's failed at a dating service, failed at crypto. These are things they kept trying to get out of, but it's always been a very good social network. And it's been the biggest and the most successful in terms of monetization and, you know, getting people on those - 3 billion people that they can market this thing to. That might be an issue. You know, Elon, of course, has threatened a lawsuit around trade secrets and stuff like that, which is just nonsense. But there might be some issues of leveraging its one social network to advantage another. In its favor is there's a lot of social networks out there, as you mentioned. And everybody's competing in the wake of Elon's ownership of Twitter, which has sort of gotten everyone interested in innovating.

DETROW: You mentioned Twitter's threat of a lawsuit, the gist of it being that Meta hired former Twitter employees to make this copycat app essentially stealing Twitter's intellectual property. It sounds like you just dismissed the argument right there. But more broadly, what does this say about how seriously Twitter is taking this as a threat?

SWISHER: Well, you know, it should take them seriously because they've done it to themselves. I mean, this is a network that insults its advertisers, insults its consumers. Its owner punches down at people and mocks people of all kinds. And, you know, it was already pretty toxic, and now it's become more toxic. So it's its own fault that there's an opportunity for not just Threads but all the others. And so Elon Musk walked right into this.

And as to the lawsuit, I mean, Facebook has already said they hadn't hired any Twitter engineers. And you might know that Elon fired everybody. And many of them didn't sign NDAs, and noncompetes are very hard to enforce. And the way he treated people on the way out of Twitter when he fired everyone wasn't very nice. And so he doesn't have a real leg to stand on, and he's really cut back on technology. There's all these glitches. You know, products rise and fall by the quality of their products. And so people want to be a place, one, that's safe, two, that isn't sucking every bit of data out of them. And that's always an issue with Meta. It's a very good product so far. And so far, it's quite - it's sort of Twitter in the old days, I guess...

DETROW: Yeah.

SWISHER: ...Is what he's going for.

DETROW: Yeah. It's been just about two days of Threads' existence. With that incredibly small sample size, do you see this as a social media platform that fits into your life?

SWISHER: I like it a lot. I've tried them all. I think they all have problems, but you can create a network of people you know instantly - a...

SWISHER: Yeah.

SWISHER: ...Lot of people - on this one because it's porting over things. That's always - I've liked a lot of them. I thought Post was very good. I think Bluesky is really interesting. I like them all, but they don't have the network that Mark Zuckerberg has, and that's a real advantage. And I think the social network is a social and network, and so that's important. If you don't - you know, you wander into a party and you don't know anybody, it's not as fun as a place where you know - everybody knows your name.

DETROW: That's Kara Swisher, host of "On" at New York Magazine and co-host of the "Pivot" podcast for Vox Media. Thanks so much.

SWISHER: Thanks so much. 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.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Patrick Jarenwattananon
Scott Detrow
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.