Threads, Meta (META)’s response to Elon Musk’s X, launched in European Union (E.U.) countries today (Dec. 14) amidst a regulatory back-and-forth between Meta and the E.U. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri announced today that 450 million people across the E.U. now have access to the platform, which was released in 100 countries in July of this year.
Unlike in the U.S., European users can access Threads without linking it to an Instagram account, which complies with E.U. rules on data sharing across different platforms.
The E.U. has been challenging Meta’s privacy policies, especially concerning tracking user data for targeted advertising. One way Meta tried to resolve this issue was by introducing paid subscriptions for ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram in Europe. Just a week ago (Dec. 7), the European Data Protection Board affirmed its decision from November to continue banning Meta from using personal data for behavioral advertising.
Complying with the E.U.’s advertising law isn’t an urgent matter for Threads for now, since the platform is still ad-free. Zuckerberg said in July he was waiting for Threads to be on a “clear path to 1 billion users” before introducing ads. Before it opened to the E.U., Threads was estimated to have around 141 million monthly active users, according to third-party data from Quiver Quantitative.
Meta didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about its advertising plans with Threads.
Meta is one of six companies, including TikTok’s owner ByteDance, designated as “gatekeepers” under the E.U.’s Digital Markets Act. The designation means these companies have the potential to become too powerful and prevent competition in the digital economy. Meta has appealed to have that label removed.
Over 100 million accounts were created on Threads the week it launched, making it seem like a promising competitor to Musk’s X. But user engagement is a different story. Just two weeks after its release, daily active users fell by half, and time spent on the app per user in the U.S. dropped from a peak of 21 minutes to a little more than six minutes, according to third-party data from SimilarWeb. By the end of July, daily active users had dropped by 82 percent. Zuckerberg, however, remained confident, claiming on Meta’s third-quarter earnings call that Threads had almost 100 million monthly active users.
With a potential half a billion new users now having access to the platform, Threads will be tasked with keeping up any momentum there is to work with.