In a sudden turn of events, Twitter is accusing Meta of misappropriating its intellectual property and trade secrets to develop Threads, Meta’s new text-based social platform. Twitter claims that Meta, Instagram’s parent company, poached former Twitter employees to create a “copycat” app. Threads, launched on Wednesday, closely resembles Twitter’s platform and has been dubbed by some as a potential “Twitter killer.”
The allegations were brought to light in a strongly worded letter sent to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Twitter. According to Spiro, Twitter plans to “strictly enforce its intellectual property rights” and demands Meta to stop using any Twitter trade secrets or confidential information immediately.
The letter, obtained exclusively by Semafor, accused Meta of hiring former Twitter employees who had access to Twitter’s confidential information. Spiro alleges that these employees were purposely placed on the development team of Threads to expedite the creation of the app, infringing on state and federal laws.
In response, Andy Stone, Meta’s communications director, told Semafor that Twitter’s accusations are baseless. He stated, “No one on the Threads engineering team is a former Twitter employee — that’s just not a thing.”
Shortly after the story was first published, Elon Musk, the current owner of Twitter, commented on the situation, writing, “competition is fine, cheating is not.”
Meta’s Threads: A Threat to Twitter?
Twitter’s aggressive stance suggests that Threads could be the most serious competitor the platform has faced so far. Twitter has been under significant criticism since its acquisition by Musk, with users expressing dissatisfaction over its right-leaning political bias and degraded user experience.
Unlike previous competitors such as Post.News, Mastodon, and Bluesky, which struggled to gain mainstream traction, Threads has a distinct advantage: it can tap into Instagram’s vast user base. Threads users can find and import their Instagram followers, avoiding the need to build a network from scratch. Furthermore, Meta has a proven track record of hindering rivals with successful copycat platforms, as evidenced by Instagram Stories halting Snapchat’s growth and Reels competing with TikTok.
Zuckerberg recently announced that Threads had already registered 30 million users on its first day, far outpacing competitors like Bluesky, which reported having just 50,000 users.
However, the future might not necessarily belong to a new dominant platform. Nathan Baschez from Every believes that the trend might lean towards internet fragmentation rather than the emergence of a ‘next Twitter.’
Instagram’s ‘Threads’: A Potential Game-Changer?
First sighted on the Google Play store in various European countries, Threads was a much-anticipated entry from Instagram into the microblogging sphere. Leaked screenshots and internal discussions revealed striking similarities between Threads and Twitter, sparking speculation of an impending rivalry between the two platforms.
Instagram’s Threads has been in development since January and aims to incorporate a decentralized protocol, a feature shared with other Twitter competitors like Bluesky and Mastodon. To encourage early adoption, Instagram has reportedly reached out to celebrities and influencers.
Instagram’s move comes against the backdrop of ongoing issues at Twitter, particularly following Musk’s takeover. After cutting its workforce by nearly three-quarters to less than 2,000 people, Twitter has grappled with several technical issues and a significant decline in advertising revenue. As Twitter faces these challenges, Instagram’s Threads could seize the opportunity to establish a strong presence in the microblogging space.
However, Instagram’s previous attempts to launch standalone apps, such as IGTV, haven’t typically been successful. But with Twitter’s current transitional phase, former Instagram product manager Eric Wei sees a clear opportunity for Instagram and Meta with Threads.
Although Twitter has now threatened legal action, it remains to be seen how this story will unfold. One thing is certain, however: the battle for the future of social media is far from over.