Why the early success of filament may turn into reality

A big tech company with billions of users introduces a new social network. By capitalizing on the popularity and scale of its existing products, the company intends to make the new social platform a success. In doing so, it also plans to crush a leading competitor app.

If this sounds like Instagram’s new thread app and its push against rival Twitter, think again. The year was 2011, and Google had just launched a social network called Google+, which was intended to “Facebook killer. Google pushed the new site in front of many of its users who relied on search and other products, and expanded Google+ to more than 90 million users within the first year.

But by 2018, Google+ was relegated to the ashes of history. Despite the search giant’s massive online audience, its social network failed to catch on as people continued to flock to Facebook – and later to Instagram and other social apps.

In the history of Silicon Valley, big tech companies have often become larger tech companies using their size as an intrinsic advantage. But as Google+ shows, capriciousness alone does not guarantee victory in the fickle and trendy social media market.

That’s the challenge now facing Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, as he tries to displace Twitter and make Thread the main app for real-time public conversations. If the history of the technology is any guide, size and scale are solid footholds — but ultimately they can’t go that far.

What comes next is much more difficult. Mr. Zuckerberg needs people to be able to find friends and influencers on topics in the serendipitous and sometimes bizarre ways that Twitter has been able to. He needs to ensure that the threads are not filled with spam and careless people. He needs to be patient about updates to the app in the works.

In short, it needs users to find a theme compelling enough to keep coming back.

said Eric Seeuvert, an independent mobile analyst who closely monitors Meta apps.

For now, Themes seems to be an overnight success. Within hours of introducing the app last Wednesday, Mr. Zuckerberg said 10 million people had signed up for Threads. By Monday, that number had increased to 100 million. It was the first app to do so in that time frame, surpassing chatbot ChatGPT, which gained 100 million users within two months of its launch, according to analytics firm Likeweb.

Mobile analyst Mr. Seuvert called the numbers collected by Threads “objectively impressive and unprecedented”.

Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, seemed annoyed by the momentum of the threads. With 100 million people, the number of threads is rising rapidly towards some of Twitter’s recent public user numbers. Twitter revealed that it had 237.8 million daily users in July 2022, four months before Mr. Musk bought the company and took it private.

Mr. Musk has taken action. On the same day that the themes from last week were officially revealed, Twitter threatened to sue Meta over the new app. On Sunday, Mr. Musk called Mr. Zuckerberg a “cuck” on Twitter. He then challenged Mr. Zuckerberg to a contest to measure a specific body part and compare its largest, along with a ruler emoji. Mr. Zuckerberg did not reply.

(Before the topics were announced, Mr. Musk separately dared Mr. Zuckerberg to have a “cage match.”)

What Mr. Musk lacks in Twitter, Mr. Zuckerberg has in abundance in Meta: massive audiences. More than three billion users regularly visit Zuckerberg’s suite of apps, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Mr. Zuckerberg has plenty of experience getting millions of people on these apps to use another app. in 2014For example, it removed Facebook’s private messaging service from within the social network’s app and forced people to download another app, called Messenger, to continue using the service.

Threads are now closely associated with Instagram. Users must have an Instagram account to register. People can import their entire following list from Instagram into Thread with just one tap on the screen, which saves them from trying to find new people to follow the service.

On Monday, Mr. Zuckerberg suggested there was more he could do to drive the growth of the thread. He wrote in a Thread post that he hadn’t “run many upgrades yet” for the app.

Some users wondered why Threads debuted without some of the basic functions used within Instagram, such as the search function that allows people to browse through popular hashtags.

“There are a lot of features Thread didn’t launch, perhaps by design, to keep its brand safe” and minimize controversy from the start, said Anil Dash, a writer and tech industry expert. “What does that do to the interesting network in the long run?”

Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said in a thread post on Monday that there is a running list of new features to add to the new app that people have asked for. “They say, ‘Make it work, make it cool, make it grow,’” he wrote, adding, “I promise we’ll make this thing cool.” “

However, installing a new app over the company’s existing products could eventually get in the way.

In 2011, after Google co-founder and then CEO Larry Page cloned Facebook with Google+, users quickly got tired of the new social network and stopped using it. Some Google+ saw something forced on them while they were just trying to access their Gmail.

Former Google employees described the product as “Fear basedIt was created solely in response to Facebook and without a clear vision of why people should use it rather than a competing network. In reporting what went wrong, a former Google employee books That Google+ basically defined itself by “what not – i.e. Facebook”.

Of course Mr. Zuckerberg can pull Bill Gates by the strings. Mr. Gates, the founder of Microsoft, built his empire on Windows, the operating system that powered a generation of personal computers—and then successfully used that scale to crush competitors.

Once Windows took over computers, Mr. Gates bundled other products with the software for free. When he did so in 1995 by bundling the Internet Explorer web browser with Windows, Internet Explorer quickly became the default browser on millions of computers, overtaking the then-dominant Netscape browser, in just four years.

However, Mr. Gates was eventually hurt by this tactic. In 1998, the Department of Justice sued Microsoft for unfairly using Windows’ market power to eliminate competition. In 2000, a federal judge ruled against Mr. Gates’ company, saying that Microsoft had put an “oppressive thumb” on the scale of competitive wealth.

Microsoft later settled with the government and agreed to make concessions.