Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta has been testing its challenger to Twitter—internally dubbed “Project 92” and previously “Barcelona”—for months with celebrities and influencers, and gave employees a sneak preview this week.
Meta told tech journalist Casey Newton in March the company “believe(d) there’s an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests.”
In May, Bloomberg reported Meta had been quietly testing it with celebrities and influencers for months and potentially could be ready to launch it as early as June.
Last week, Meta employees got a preview of the app, The Verge reported, which will stand alone but based on Instagram, and will likely allow users to transfer information and followers from Instagram.
Screenshots of the app acquired by The Verge show a mobile app with an appearance extremely similar to Twitter, featuring verified users, like and reshare buttons and a messaging option.
Meta chief product officer Chris Cox reportedly told employees the goal of the new app is to have a platform prioritizing “safety, ease of use, reliability” and to ensure that creators have a “stable place to build and grow their audiences.”
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There is still no set launch date or official name for the app—nicknamed both Project 92 and “Barcelona” internally—though could be called Threads, “based on internal documents” reviewed by The Verge.
“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run, that they believe that they can trust and rely upon for distribution,” Cox said to employees, in a clear dig at Twitter, and new owner Elon Musk, when showing the app, The Verge reported, calling it “our response to Twitter.”
Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded to a tweet about Meta’s challenger crudely Friday, tweeting “zuck my tongue” in response to a link reporting that Meta had been trying to get the Dalia Lama—who recently made headlines for saying “suck my tongue” to a child—as a user. Meta reportedly has DJ Slime signed on to use the app, and are also in talks with Oprah, The Verge reported.
Many frustrated users have posted publicly about finding an alternative to Twitter since billionaire Elon Musk took over in October 2022 and began quickly making changes to the platform, ranging from adding an algorithm-driven “For You” page, to eliminating moderation teams charged with eliminating offensive content, to charging people to be verified and get access to features like an edit button. Mastodon attempted to fill the gap shortly after Musk bought Twitter, offering a less centralized platform but promising “no algorithms or ads to waste your time.” But, Wired reported that Mastodon’s number of active users fell to 1.4 million at the end of January—dropping by more than one million—since people flocked to it in November 2022.
Project 92 isn’t the only recent Twitter challenger. Twitter’s former CEO Jack Dorsey launched Bluesky, a decentralized app that was developed in parallel with Twitter and has an interface almost indistinguishable from Twitter, along with a similar algorithm. Bluesky is currently invitation-only after launching its beta version for iOS in February and for Android in April. Bluesky plans to allow users to create their own content moderation guidelines or subscribe to guidelines created by others, including the ability to opt-in or opt-out of viewing violent or hateful content.