In a fierce social media showdown, Meta's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, delivered a mighty kick to ‘Chief Twit’ Elon Musk. The battle started with numbers. Just five days after the launch, Zuckerberg proudly announced that Threads, essentially a Twitter clone, already had 100 million users. It became the fastest-growing consumer app in history, breaking the record previously held by ChatGPT.
Meta strategically linked Threads with Instagram, its photo app with over 2 billion users. But Instagram's younger audience struggled with Threads' text-heavy focus. Moderation and algorithms shaped content, similar to Facebook and Instagram. On the other hand, Twitter favoured new posts at the top, making it popular for news and events.
It is a common misconception that disruption arises from innovation or excellence. The truth is disruption thrives on the stagnation and incompetence of established players. Threads, often mistaken for a product of innovation, is a basic Twitter clone rushed into the market by a couple of two-pizza teams. Surprisingly, Threads' initial triumph has little to do with its merits. Instead, it results from the dysfunction at Twitter (attributed to Elon) and Meta's monopolistic dominance.
Netflix became the dominant force in the entertainment industry, overpowering cable television, which was once a complacent, heavily regulated near monopoly. Cable TV charged exorbitant fees for a mix of excellent and mediocre shows meant to divert you from the hefty charges. Market dominance alone is a formidable defence, particularly in social media, where network effects render existing platforms immune to startup competition.
Musk’s lowered his defences by firing everybody and the cleaners at Twitter, and Zuckerberg landed a hard punch because of it. (I want to believe that former Twitter employees created Threads, but I simply cannot).
Troubles in Europe?
Currently, Threads is unavailable in Europe due to strict new rules aimed at curbing the market power of big tech companies. The rules prohibit companies from favouring their own products or sharing user data between apps, which is precisely what happens between Instagram and Threads. Meta is waiting to see how these regulations will apply to Threads.
Meta seems to be addressing some of the concerns from Brussels by making Threads interoperable with other social networks through the ActivityPub protocol, also used by Twitter competitor Mastodon. This means messages from one network can be seen on another, and switching networks allows users to take their messages and profile with them.
But even if Meta complies, there's an uncomfortable truth for policymakers. If Zuckerberg manages to eliminate Twitter, he will virtually monopolize the social media sector, leaving only Chinese TikTok as a serious competitor. Such an outcome may not sit well with everyone.
No Threads in Europe would mean fewer users and potentially less revenue from advertising for Meta. Musk would probably thank Brussels for that.
Rather than being embroiled in a boring billionaires' battle over Bucks (quite a few), Zuckerberg and Musk should rise to the occasion and innovate! Embracing AI-driven innovation is imperative for Social Media platforms, with applications like safeguarding against misinformation, special interests, and propaganda. By leveraging AI technologies, social media platforms should proactively detect and counter false information, ensuring accurate and reliable content is disseminated. These platforms can foster a responsible and engaging online community by investing in AI-driven solutions, ultimately contributing to a healthier, more constructive digital space. Is the cake a lie, Elon?
During a Twitter internal event (July 2023) led by Elon Musk, discussions about xAI took center stage. The founding team introduced themselves, boasting strong backgrounds with renowned entities like Deep Mind, OpenAI, Google, and Tesla. The primary goal of xAI is to develop an AGI with ‘maximum curiosity' and ‘truth curious’ abilities, aiming to understand the universe better. Musk emphasized the importance of humanity as the focus for truth-seeking super intelligence, surpassing even the fascination with space and Mars. The team acknowledged the challenges in today's advanced AIs, highlighting the need for improvements to bridge the gap. xAI's potential in reshaping existing mathematical theories, like the 'Theory of Everything,' was also brought up by Co-Founder Greg Yang. Musk believes that solving a fundamental question will qualify a computer as AGI and expressed confidence in xAI's potential to simplify complex problems. They plan to release more information about xAI in a few weeks, and it is being positioned as a competition to OpenAI. xAI will leverage Twitter data for training and eventually generate its own content. Musk stressed the importance of letting AI express its beliefs, even if criticism arises. He warned against teaching AI to lie and discussed the need for regulatory oversight and AI regulations. Musk predicts AGI by 2029, close to Ray Kurzweil's estimation. Overall, xAI aims to enhance self-driving capabilities for Tesla and provide a useful tool for consumers and businesses through its insights.
Twitter appears to be entering the battle in a weaker position, partially due to Musk's actions. His recent restriction of platform access and significant layoffs have left the company technically unstable. Moreover, his communication style seems to drive more users away. However, we should be careful not to mistake our own bubble for everyone's perspective. While some may long for a platform without Musk, it may not be the sentiment of all Twitter users.
It's far from certain that Threads will become the "Twitter-killer," as it's often touted. There might be room for both if the tone and content differ enough.
Twitter's fate might depend on Musk's actions and the platform's ability to compete. Given Musk’s recent ‘I say what I want'-Streak, it might worsen matters for Twitter before it gets better.