Two hours after pressing the launch button on Wednesday on Threads, Instagram’s new app for real-time, public conversations, Mark Zuckerberg posted that more than two million people had downloaded his latest creation.
That was just the beginning.
Another two hours later, five million people had downloaded Threads. By the time Mr. Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, went to bed on Wednesday night, the number of downloads had soared to 10 million. When he woke on Thursday morning, the app had been downloaded more than 30 million times, he said.
In less than a day, Threads — which is aimed as a rival to Twitter — appears to have taken the crown as the most rapidly downloaded app ever. It easily outstripped ChatGPT, the chatbot, which was downloaded one million times within its first five days, according to OpenAI, ChatGPT’s maker. And it is on pace to exceed ChatGPT’s 100 million users within two months, which was the fastest to reach that number ever, according to the analytics firm Similarweb.
Some of Twitter’s most-followed users — such as Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Shakira and Oprah Winfrey — immediately joined Threads and began posting. The atmosphere was celebratory, with users writing welcome messages and expressing eagerness to read one another’s posts. At one point, the new app was so inundated with users that it appeared unstable.
“This is as good of a start as we could have hoped for!” Mr. Zuckerberg, whose company owns Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp, said in a post on Threads on Thursday. He later added, “Feels like the beginning of something special.”
The early momentum underscored people’s desire to find an alternative to Twitter, the 18-year-old digital town square that has long been the central place for public conversation online. Since Elon Musk bought Twitter last year, the billionaire has instituted changes that have angered the social platform’s longtime users, especially those who do not care for his laissez-faire approach to content moderation. Twitter has also suffered from more outages and bugs.
Mr. Musk isn’t taking Mr. Zuckerberg’s actions lying down. On Thursday, lawyers for Twitter sent Meta a letter threatening legal action, accusing it of using trade secrets to build Threads, and asked the social network to preserve internal documents relevant to a dispute between the two companies. The letter was earlier reported by Semafor. A Meta spokeswoman declined to comment.
Threads was a surprise hit for Meta, which has been badly in need of a win after being scrutinized for spreading misinformation and other toxic content across the internet. While Mr. Zuckerberg’s social network was celebrated in its early days, it has in recent years been criticized by regulators, activists and users upset with how the company handles data and its products. Meta has also faced questions about its move into the still-emerging immersive digital world of the so-called metaverse.
But this week was a reprieve — at least briefly — for Mr. Zuckerberg and his company. Inside Meta on Wednesday evening, employees rejoiced in the launch of Threads, sharing inside jokes and memes with one another, according to screenshots of the conversations viewed by The New York Times.
Celebrities, brands and influencers were given early access to the app over the past few days, a move by Meta to kick-start a freewheeling culture of fun and discussion. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an interview on Wednesday that he wanted Threads to be a “friendly place” for public conversation.
“Can’t get enough of your threads,” the actress Jennifer Lopez said in a Threads post, adding an emoji of musical notes. Ms. DeGeneres, in her first Threads post, wrote, “Welcome to Gay Twitter!”
Yet such early momentum does not necessarily translate to long-term engagement and success. Twitter had more than 250 million daily users, according to the last public figures cited by the company last year. And some Threads users have been put off by an issue that may require users to delete their connected Instagram account if they wish to delete their Threads account. Instagram said it was looking into alternate ways that Threads users can deactivate their accounts.
This is a developing story and will be updated.