Dubbed as the "Twitter-Killer", Threads was the top free app on Apple's App Store in the UK and the US on Thursday as it logged 30 million sign-ups within about 18 hours of its launch, including celebrities Kim Kardashian and Gordon Ramsay.
"Meta's release of Threads came at the perfect time to give it a fighting chance to unseat Twitter," said Niklas Myhr, professor of marketing at Chapman University, referring to the turmoil at Twitter after it limited the number of tweets users can see.
"Threads will be off to a running start as it is built upon the Instagram platform with its massive user base and if users adopt Threads, advertisers will be following closely behind."
Currently there are no ads on the Threads app and Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would only think about monetisation once there was a clear path to 1 billion users.
Existing ad relationships from Instagram and Facebook should help Threads' revenue, said Pinar Yildirim, associate professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
"Facebook is a less uncertain bet compared to Twitter and a bigger player in the ad market
While Threads is a standalone app, users can log in using their Instagram credentials, which makes it an easy addition for Instagram's more than 2 billion monthly active users.
Twitter, by comparison, had 229 million monthly active users in May 2022, according to a statement made before Musk's buyout of the social media platform.
Mastodon, another Twitter-like app, has 1.7 million monthly active users, according to its website, while Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey-backed Bluesky has about 265,000 users.
Some analysts said Threads was reminiscent of Meta's success in integrating crucial features of platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok in the case of Instagram's Stories and Reels.
At least four brokerages raised their price target
on Meta, whose shares have already more than doubled in value this year.
On Thursday, the stock was down 0.3% amid a broader market selloff, having risen 3% on Wednesday ahead of Threads' launch.
The app's arrival comes after Zuckerberg and Musk have traded barbs for months, even threatening to fight each other in a real-life mixed martial arts cage match in Las Vegas.
"The cage match has started, and Zuckerberg delivered a major blow. In many ways, it's exactly what you'd expect from Meta: Stellar execution and an easy-to-navigate user interface," Insider Intelligence principal analyst Jasmine Enberg said.
The app is available in over 100 countries, but Bloomberg News reported that it won't be launched in the European Union as of now as Meta works out how data sharing between the new platform and its Instagram app will be regulated.
Threads was among the trending topics on Twitter where many users shared links to their profiles on the rival app and memes, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who on Wednesday posted on Twitter for the first time since 2012.
Unlike Zuckerberg, Musk does not have a Threads account. Musk deleted his Instagram account in 2018.
Threads' launch was clearly a first stab at a service as it lacked the bells and whistles of Twitter.
Threads does not have hashtags and keyword search functions, which means users cannot follow real-time events like on Twitter. It also does not yet have a direct messaging function and lacks a desktop version that certain users, such as business organisations, rely on.
Some users including tech reviewer Marques Brownlee posted about the need for a feed that only consists of the people one follows. Users currently have little control over the main feed.
Overall, analysts said Threads was a strong competitor to Twitter, which has been rocked by abrupt decisions by Musk.
"There should be a public conversations app with 1 billion+ people on it. Twitter has had the opportunity to do this but hasn't nailed it. Hopefully we will," Zuckerberg said on Threads, where he now has a million followers.