Meta's new Twitter competitor, Threads, is looking for ways to keep users interested after more than half of the people who signed up for the text-based platform stopped actively using the app, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told employees in a company town hall yesterday. Threads launched on July 5 and signed up over 100 million users in less than five days, buoyed by user frustration with Elon Musk-owned Twitter.
"Obviously, if you have more than 100 million people sign up, ideally it would be awesome if all of them or even half of them stuck around. We're not there yet," Zuckerberg told employees yesterday, according to Reuters, which listened to audio of the event.
Third-party data suggests that Threads may have lost many more than half of its active users. Daily active users for Threads on Android dropped from 49 million on July 7 to 23.6 million on July 14, and then to 12.6 million on July 23, web analytics company SimilarWeb reported.
"We don't yet have daily numbers for iOS, but we suspect the boom-and-bust pattern is similar," SimilarWeb wrote. "Threads took off like a rocket, with its close linkage to Instagram as the booster. However, the developers of Threads will need to fill in missing features and add some new and unique ones if they want to make checking the app a daily habit for users."
Although losing over half of the initial users in a short period might sound discouraging, the Reuters article said Zuckerberg told employees that user retention was better than Meta executives expected. "Zuckerberg said he considered the drop-off 'normal' and expected retention to grow as the company adds more features to the app, including a desktop version and search functionality," Reuters wrote.
Chief Product Officer Chris Cox also spoke at the company event, reportedly saying that Meta is considering "retention-driving hooks" such as "making sure people who are on the Instagram app can see important Threads." Threads is part of Meta's Instagram platform, so users can create a Threads profile as part of their Instagram account.
Zuck: Threads still needs “basic functionality”
When contacted by Ars today, a Meta spokesperson pointed to Zuckerberg's comments from Wednesday's earnings call. Zuckerberg said:
On Threads, briefly, I'm quite optimistic about our trajectory. We saw unprecedented growth out of the gate and more importantly we're seeing more people coming back daily than I'd expected. And now, we're focused on retention and improving the basics. And then after that, we'll focus on growing the community to the scale we think is possible. Only after that will we work on monetization. We've run this playbook many times before—with Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Stories, Reels, and more—and this is as good of a start as we could have hoped for, so I'm really happy with the path we're on here.
Zuckerberg also told investors that "Threads has been dramatically more than we expected in terms of the adoption and the rate of that... we had a small team working on [it] for a while, but it really kind of blew up and created a big opportunity immediately."
Zuckerberg said "there's still a lot of basic functionality to build" for Threads and talked briefly about the challenge of attracting users to new standalone apps. "We've tried a bunch of standalone experiences over time, and in general, we haven't had a lot of success with building kind of standalone apps," he said.
Threads could succeed in part because of user backlash to Musk's changes at Twitter, now officially called "X," Zuckerberg seemed to suggest. "It could just be that this is such an idiosyncratic case because of all of the factors that are happening around Twitter or X, I guess, it's called now," he said.
Threads is available in about 100 countries, including the US and UK, but is not in the European Union yet because of concerns over compliance with EU regulations. Threads has drawn privacy-related criticisms because of the amount of personal data collected by the app.