For many users, Twitter has become like a bad boyfriend.

Under Elon Musk, the platform could be untrusted and unfiltered. Some users called it toxic. They urged their followers to leave the platform in protest of Musk’s leadership, including his algorithm changes and decision to reinstate Donald Trump’s account. Other tech companies, like Substack, have tried to offer frustrated Twitter users a new place to go, but none have been convincing enough to present a viable alternative — until now.

This week, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, released Threads, its Twitter competitor. It soon became the fastest downloaded app ever. More than 70 million users have joined Threads in recent days, surpassing the audiences of Twitter’s other challengers.

Why? Because Meta had something the other competitors didn’t: two billion existing users that the company could push to use the new product. People log in to Threads using their Instagram account, instead of having to create a new username, password and profile photo. Meta also used its existing platforms to promote Threads.

For people who liked Twitter but didn’t like the changes Musk implemented, or grew tired of its antics, the arrival of Threads is exciting. Despite all its drawbacks, Twitter has indeed played an important role in many people’s lives, helping them understand the news and stay current on trends in culture.

At the same time, Threads’ early success highlights a recurring problem in the Internet economy. A small number of giant companies increasingly command our attention. Twitter, if anything, was too small to be considered part of this club. Meta, on the contrary, is a modern giant, along with Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple and Microsoft.

“They are not only the richest corporations that have ever existed, but they have institutionalized a new form of profound inequality” in controlling information, Shoshana Zuboff, a privacy expert at Harvard, said. “Threads are simply another piece of property in a global surveillance empire.”

In the rest of today’s newsletter, we’ll explain the basics of Threads, assess its likelihood of long-term success, and give you links to more coverage, in The Times and beyond.

Threads are very similar to Twitter. It offers many of the same features: a scrolling stream of posts, some with photos or videos attached, and the ability to repost other users. The feed is a mix of posts from accounts that users follow and those suggested by an algorithm.

But it’s also supposed to have a different vibe. Meta has pitched Threads as a less political version of Twitter, but it’s unclear how the company will maintain that ethos.

Many of the platform’s posts have made memes out of the competition between Twitter and Threads. Users photographed the faces of Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Meta, and Musk to famous fights, such as Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. News outlets, such as The Guardian and Semafor, joined in and started posting their articles. So far, those posts seem indistinguishable from tweets.

But users also have fun on the platform. Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Lopez and Tom Brady have all created accounts, and many celebrities have posted welcome messages. Pitbull said, “Mr. Worldwide check-in.” And Martha Stewart posted a photo in a pool, saying she was “ready to spray.”

Meta’s commitment to keeping Threads “positive” is a contrast to Musk’s plan to make Twitter an uncensored platform. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said that Meta decided to create the app specifically to respond to “product changes and decisions” that Musk made at Twitter.

The launch heightened the rivalry between Zuckerberg and Musk, who have recently threatened to fight each other. After the release of Threads, Musk claimed that he had previously deleted his Instagram account. “It is infinitely preferable to be attacked by strangers on Twitter, than to indulge in the false happiness of hidden pain Instagram,” he wrote on Twitter.

Lawyers for Twitter sent Meta a letter threatening legal action, accusing Zuckerberg’s company of using trade secrets to build Threads. The app is also not currently available in the European Union because Meta is not yet sure if it complies with Europe’s strict privacy rules.

The early success was a rare recent win for Meta. Facebook and Instagram have struggled to keep up with TikTok, while Zuckerberg’s dreams of creating a “metaverse” have largely failed to materialize. The company laid off thousands of employees.

However, the early momentum for Threads does not guarantee long-term success. Other platforms, such as BeReal and Clubhouse, generated buzz as the future of social media, only to fade.

Again, though, Meta has an advantage that none of those other attempts did: It’s easy to attract users when you already have them.

  • “Right now it’s just very friendly in there. Now, we’ll see what it looks like when the gates blow open and anyone and everyone can join. But the vibes are good there right now,” Mosseri, the Instagram boss, said on The Times’ “Hard Fork” podcast.

  • Threads are simple to use, “thanks to some serious Copying and pasting from Twitter,” The Wall Street Journal writes. But it lacks hashtags or private messages.

  • Threads is the first program that threatened the status of Twitter as “the water cooler of the internet,” Bloomberg’s Dave Lee writes.

  • To delete a Threads profile, users must delete their Instagram account. This may conflict with the government’s efforts to make it easier to cancel online accounts.

  • Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, said that the US and China will have more frequent communication after her trip to Beijing.

  • The Dutch prime minister resigned after his coalition rejected his tough new line on refugees, demonstrating how powerful the issue of migration is in European politics.

  • Ukrainian doctors who fled Russia’s invasion often face a difficult choice: remain unemployed or return to a country at war.

  • Justice Clarence Thomas’ membership in an elite club gave him access to a wealthy circle of friends. He, in turn, gave them rare access to the Supreme Court.

  • American soccer star Megan Rapinoe has said she will retire at the end of the year.

  • Realtors say their job – meeting strangers to woo them into buying property – comes with the risk of sexual harassment.

Russia will threaten nuclear war regardless of whether Ukraine joins NATO, Alyona Getmanchuk writes

Here is a column from Farhad Manjoo on affirmative action.


Sunday’s question: Should the US supply Ukraine with cluster munitions?

Making the weapons available, which are banned in more than 100 countries but not in Ukraine, Russia or the United States, would put at risk “the very people that the Ukrainians are. trying to protect,” MSNBC’s Hayes Brown writes. But cluster munitions are only considered criminal when they are used indiscriminatelyRobert Goldman writes at The Conversation, and it is “highly unlikely” that Ukraine would use them in civilian areas.

Summer destinations: National Parks get all the attention. These public grounds are also beautiful – but lack the crowds.

TikTok famous: Matt Rife was just another struggling stand-up comedian. Then he exploded on TikTok.

Promises: After her ex-husband used her identity to embezzle money, she vowed never to marry again. She changed her mind.

Lives Lived: Sue Johanson was a beloved radio and television host who spoke about sex with aplomb. She died at 92 years old.

Robert Downey Jr. co-stars in the upcoming “Oppenheimer” by director Christopher Nolan, in which he plays Lewis Strauss, antagonist of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb”. I spoke with the actor about returning to non-franchise roles after years spent mostly as Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You’re in a phase of your career, post-Marvel, where you only have to work when you want to. How do you decide what films to make?

At this point, you’re not doing it for the money. But then there’s the why: I don’t know why I can relate to Lewis Strauss so much, but I felt like I was meant to play this role. “Oppenheimer” was a demarcation line for me.

Why?

I finished the Marvel contract and then rushed into what had all the promise of being another potential franchise in “Doolittle.” After that, we had this reset of priorities. Then old Chris Nolan calls. So I guess my answer to your question is, it’s great to fight someone more dangerous than you.

Unlike other actors, I don’t know how important being able to personally identify with a character is for your acting.

There are things that feel in the sweet spot. I had an experience on “Oppenheimer” where we were doing a driving shot and it’s me and Nolan and the DP and a driver, and we had to deal with something about the car. Nolan was like, “I’m going to step out — here, take this,” and put a film of film in my lap. I was brought back to that first time I was on set with my dad and it was almost like in the five minutes I sat there, he gave me back my cellular dignity.

Read the full interview here.

Read the full issue.

Times best selling: “Palazzo” by Danielle Steel, about a family business in Venice, is new this week on the hardcover fiction list.

Read Olivia Rodrigo to discuss her new album in Vogue.

Choose the best waterproof camera.

Throw great barbecue.

Take a look the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.

  • President Biden is scheduled to meet with King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tomorrow in London.

  • The Major League Baseball Home Run Derby is tomorrow, followed by the All-Star game on Tuesday.

  • A trial is set to begin in Michigan tomorrow to determine which of Aretha Franklin’s handwritten wills is legally binding.

  • NATO leaders are scheduled to meet for a summit in Lithuania starting Tuesday.

  • Friday is Bastille Day in France.

  • The Wimbledon women’s singles final will be on Saturday, and the men’s final is on Sunday.

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