Threads: Meta’s rival to Elon Musk’s X launches in EU

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By Imran Rahman-Jones and Tom Gerken

Technology reporters

Meta’s social media app Threads has launched in the European Union, five months after its release in other parts of the world.

It debuted to much fanfare as a rival to Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter.

But it was not made available in the EU, which has strict rules around data and big tech.

Meta will hope it will drive interest in the platform, which gained more than 100 million users in its first week before those numbers drifted down.

Boss Mark Zuckerberg announced the news with a post on Threads, welcoming new users from across Europe.

A Meta spokesperson said the platform had undergone “significant improvements” since its launch in other countries in July.

A lack of key features, such as a website and search function, had contributed to initial user interest fading.

“Starting today, people in the EU can choose to create a Threads profile that is connected to their Instagram account – which means they get the same experience as everyone else around the world – or use Threads without a profile,” they said.

Just three weeks after its launch, Mr Zuckerberg said Threads had lost half of its users.

The release of new features has helped it claw most of them back – but Threads remains less popular than X, and has many fewer users than TikTok, or other Meta services Instagram and Facebook.

EU delay

Meta has not officially disclosed why it delayed Threads’ launch in the EU, but it is thought to be because of the bloc’s strict regulations.

A Meta spokesperson told The Verge in July it was down to “upcoming regulatory uncertainty”.

The EU’s Digital Services Act – laws which impose new responsibilities on big tech companies – came into force in August.

They are designed to protect users on large social platforms, and include rules on advertising to children and a requirement for firms to be more transparent about their algorithms with regulators.

Threads asks permission to access lots of data on your device, including location data, purchases and browsing history.

It is not currently known if the app has undergone significant changes to abide by the EU’s laws.

However, in October Meta announced subscription services would be brought into most of Europe that would remove adverts from all its platforms, which it said would address EU concerns.

It came after Meta was fined €390m (£335m) in January for breaking EU data rules around ads.

The subscription model is exclusive to people in the EU, European Economic Area and Switzerland, and is not available in the UK.