After months of brainstorming and scheming, Meta is getting closer to releasing a Twitter clone to the world, according to a new report from The Verge. The company’s pitch is simple. Execs claim they will offer “a platform that is sanely run.”
On Thursday night, The Verge reported that Meta chief product officer Chris Cox showed employees a preview of “Project 92,” a code name for a project Cox called “our response to Twitter” in a company-wide meeting. As explained by The Verge, Project 92 is Meta’s new standalone text app that looks a lot like Instagram’s comment section. Meta executives are purportedly considering naming the app “Threads,” the same name given to its dead Instagram messaging app, although the decision is not final.
According to The Verge, Threads (or whatever it ends up being called) will integrate with the decentralized social media protocol ActivityPub, which aims to untether social content from specific apps and make it more widely accessible. It will use Instagram’s account system to quickly generate users’ profiles.
“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run, that they believe that they can trust and rely upon for distribution,” Cox reportedly said at the meeting.
— The Verge (@verge) June 8, 2023
Gizmodo reached out to Meta for comment on The Verge’s report on Friday morning but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
At the same all-hands meeting, Mark Zuckerberg mapped out how Meta would be using AI in the future. In summary: he said AI would come to all of the company’s social media products, per Axios. He reportedly mentioned that generative chatbots would soon arrive on Whatsapp as conversational companions and that AI would allow Instagram users to write out how they wanted to modify their Instagram photos and then see a virtual assistant make the alterations.
We’ve known for some time that Meta was working on a Twitter clone. In December, The New York Times reported that Meta employees held a virtual brainstorming session on creating a Twitter alternative in November, just weeks after Twitter’s hot mess owner officially bought the platform for $44 billion. At the time, one employee said, “Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs its mojo back,” later adding, “LET’S GO FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER.”
More recently, in March, Meta confirmed to Gizmodo that it was “exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates.” In a statement, the company said it believed there was an opportunity “for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests.”
Of course, Meta isn’t the only one trying to reel in the trove of aghast Twitter users that are unhappy with the platform under Musk’s rule, which has been prone to breaking, fueling misinformation, alienating media outlets and high-profile users, and hosting jaw-dropping drama like the blue check fiasco of 2023. There are Twitter alternatives left and right, including Mastodon, Post News, Hive, and Bluesky, to name a few. None of them appears to have taken off, though (I’m personally still waiting for a Bluesky invite code).
Meta’s alternative has the potential to be very different, primarily because the company is very good at copying things. Although it may inspire annoyance or outage with its copied products at first, such as when it ripped off Stories from Snapchat and blatantly launched Reels to compete with TikTok, millions upon millions inevitably succumb and decide Meta’s versions aren’t so bad.
What’s notable here is that there are so many users fed up with Twitter that they’re actively looking for a new alternative that’s easy to use and that has the potential to scale. We can criticize Meta all we want, but it has billions of users—users who might very much be willing to try something new that works and not speak into an empty void. Meta may be making Threads available as soon as possible, per the Verge. We’ll be waiting.
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