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Elon Musk vs. Mark Zuckerberg: The Battle for Social Media Dominance

Diane Hall


Twitter V Threads

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Elon Musk’s recent moves—to charge Twitter users for verification (i.e. the ‘blue tick’) and restrictions on how many Tweets users can see—don’t appear to have been good business decisions. The latter coincided with the launch of Meta’s new social platform, Threads, which is the company’s stab at emulating the speed and long-gone-simplicity of Twitter back in the day.

More than 10 million people signed up to Threads on the day it launched. It’s fair to say that a lot of these will be/have been avid Twitter users, who were perhaps outraged at not being able to view the fast-moving selection of Tweets they’re used to. 

Musk’s restrictions were revealed to be temporary, and were blamed on the platform changing the servers it uses to operate; Musk said the move was necessary to prevent unscrupulous companies harvesting data the platform has gathered since its incarnation. 

But once access was once again freely given on Twitter, did those who signed up to Threads return to the mother ship? Or did they stay with Zuckerberg’s creation?

Bluer tick mark for social media

Elon Musk's aim: pushing for accountability and quality

Elon Musk's introduction of paid-for-verification on Twitter, indicated by the coveted blue tick, is part of his broader goal to enhance accountability and ensure the authenticity of user accounts. By creating a financial barrier for verification, Musk aims to deter impersonation and fake accounts, thus promoting trust and credibility on the platform. While this move sparked some controversy, it aligns with Musk's commitment to transparency and combating misinformation.

Furthermore, Musk's recent restrictions on the number of tweets users can read was rumoured to be another step towards addressing the issue of information overload. By limiting the amount of content users can consume within a certain timeframe, Musk can align the way users interact with Twitter to his values and intentions, i.e. to encourage thoughtful engagement and discourage mindless scrolling. 

The move, when implemented, was met with mixed reactions. That it was temporary may indicate that Musk was just testing the water, before deciding if such restrictions should be permanently incorporated. 

The timing of Zuckerberg's Threads launch

Mark Zuckerberg's decision to launch Threads, a messaging app that focuses on close connections and intimate sharing, came at an interesting time. It coincided with Musk's implementation of restrictions on Twitter, suggesting that Zuckerberg saw an opportunity to attract users who may be dissatisfied with those new Twitter policies (which, at the time, weren’t touted as being a temporary initiative). 

By emphasising privacy and genuine connections, Threads aims to position itself as an alternative platform for users seeking a more personal and curated social media experience (which is also what Musk is trying to achieve).

Threads colour logo

Threads establishing its own audience

But can Threads go the distance and carve out its own audience, independent of those who flocked to its door in their rejection of Twitter? While it’s still early to draw definitive conclusions, Threads possesses several features that might help it attract a dedicated user base. The app's emphasis on sharing content with a select group of close friends aligns with the growing demand for more intimate social interactions (though the recent ‘Communities’ feature introduced to Twitter could be argued as being very similar). By fostering a sense of exclusivity and privacy, Threads aims to create a safe space for users to share personal moments without the fear of judgment or scrutiny from a wider audience.

Moreover, Threads seamlessly integrates with Instagram, enabling users to share updates, photos, and videos directly with their close friends on the visual platform. This integration capitalises on the existing user base and familiarity of Instagram, potentially providing Threads with a competitive advantage. As an extension of Instagram's core features, Threads is well-positioned to tap into the existing user ecosystem and offer a complementary experience that enhances the value of both platforms.

However, Threads also faces challenges. One of its key hurdles is convincing users to adopt yet another messaging app, especially when they may already be using various other platforms—such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram DMs. The success of Threads will depend on its ability to offer unique features and a compelling user experience that differentiates it from existing messaging apps.

The competition between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg highlights the dynamic nature of the tech industry. There are even rumours that their ongoing rivalry may soon come to physical blows in a boxing ring, believe it or not.

Whether Threads can establish its own audience, separate from Twitter, will depend on its ability to provide a unique value proposition in the highly competitive messaging app market. As the battle between these tech titans continues, it’s clear that their strategic moves reflect their visions for the future of social media and the ever-evolving needs of users in an increasingly interconnected world.

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