As Meta tries to revive flagging interest in its Threads social media offering, the company is launching a desktop version of its rival to Elon Musk's Twitter, now called X.
Meta on Tuesday launched an early version of Threads that can be used on web browsers. The text-based platform was available only through smartphone apps when it debuted in early July.
Threads was widely seen as an alternative to Twitter, and it attracted more than 100 million sign-ups less than a week after it was unveiled. But is has struggled to maintain its early momentum, according to third-party analytics firms.
Daily active android users on Threads peaked on July 7 at 49.3 million only to plummet to 10.3 million a month later on Aug. 7, according to estimates from website-tracking firm SimilarWeb. And even users who do go to Threads are spending less time on the app than they once did, according to SimilarWeb.
Web browser capability is one of several features Meta has been pushing out to Threads over the past several weeks.
But even as Meta expands the functionality of Threads, experts say it faces an uphill battle to rebuild interest in the app and ensure there is a steady flow of engaging content to keep people coming back. The declining user engagement on Threads shows the pitfalls companies sometimes face when they push out a minimally viable product, betting that future updates will attract more customers.
"They can't just have one toe in the water. They have to dive into the deep end of the pool," said Daniel Ives, a senior equity research analyst at Wedbush Securities. "I think there's still a lot of questions of how committed they are" to Threads.
Meta decided to ramp up its work on a stand-alone text-based app that could woo creators over from Twitter during a meeting last winter between CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram head Adam Mosseri and other leaders. The company pushed up the launch of Threads by a week after Musk decided to cap the number of tweets users could view each day on Twitter, angering longtime fans of the social network.
Within hours, the app attracted millions of users including some big-time names such as Kim Kardashian, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Some cited their frustration with Twitter as a reason they were rooting for the new app.
Executives cautioned from the beginning that they need to improve the Threads app for it to become a long-term success. Mosseri told The Washington Post that he is focusing on make sure the team behind Threads builds out basic features, such as helping users build their lists of people to follow, improving the algorithms that decide what users see and figuring out how to let people message each other.
Meta has already shipped several Threads updates including offering users the option to see chronological feeds of posts only from people they follow rather than algorithmically driven feeds from users across the platform.
The company also announced last week that users could share a post on Threads in a direct message on Instagram. Adding that ability coincided with an incremental gain in daily users, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Tower, although it estimates the daily active user total on Threads is still down 75 percent from launch.
But its main rival has been stagnating - according to data from SimilarWeb, Musk's platform has experienced sporadic declines in usage over the past year, since he first announced his plans to buy Twitter.
"I think they're all facing head winds," Ives said of text-based social media in general. "Monetization continues to be the issue, but the engagement on Twitter is unmatched."