Two hours after hitting 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 have downloaded his latest creation.

That was just the beginning.

Another two hours later, five million people had downloaded Threads. When Mr Zuckerberg, the head of Meta, went to bed on Wednesday night, the number of downloads had soared to 10 million. When he woke up Thursday morning, the app had been downloaded more than 30 million times, he said.

In less than a day, Threads – which is intended as a rival to Twitter – seems to have taken the crown as the fastest downloaded app ever. It easily surpassed ChatGPT, the chat app that was downloaded a million times in its first five days, according to OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. And it’s fast to get over ChatGPT’s 100 million users within two months, which was the fastest to reach that number ever, according to analytics firm Similarweb.

Some of Twitter’s most followed users – such as Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Shakira and Oprah Winfrey – immediately joined Threads and started posting. The atmosphere was festive, with users writing welcome messages and expressing eagerness to read each other’s posts. At one point, the new app was so flooded with users that it seemed unstable.

“This is as good a start as we could hope for!” Mr Zuckerberg, whose company owns Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp, said in a post on Threads on Thursday. He later added, “It feels like the start 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 longtime users of the social platform, especially those who don’t mind his no-holds-barred approach to content moderation. Twitter also suffered from more outages and bugs.

Mr. Musk is not taking Mr. Zuckerberg’s actions lying down. On Thursday, Twitter lawyers 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 related to a dispute between the two companies. The letter was earlier reported from Semaphore. A Meta spokesman declined to comment.

Threads was a surprise success for Meta, who badly needed 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 come under fire in recent years from regulators, activists and users upset about how the company handles data and its products. Meta also faced questions about its move into the still-emerging immersive digital world of the so-called metaverse.

But this week was a respite – at least briefly – for Mr Zuckerberg and his company. Inside Meta on Wednesday evening, employees were rejoicing over the launch of Threads, sharing inside jokes and memes with each other, according to screenshots of the conversations seen by The New York Times.

Celebrities, brands and influencers have been given early access to the app over the past few days, a move by Meta to spark a voluntary culture of fun and discussion. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in an interview on Wednesday that he wants Threads to be a “friendly place” for public conversation.

“Can’t get enough of your threads,” actress Jennifer Lopez said in a Threads post, adding a musical notes emoji. Ms. DeGeneres, in her first Threads post, wrote, “Welcome to Gay Twitter!”

However, such early momentum does not necessarily translate into long-term commitment 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 linked Instagram account if they want to delete their Threads account. Instagram said it is looking into alternate ways Threads users can deactivate their accounts.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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