The Spark of Inspiration
Early in 2023, a small team at Meta began conceptualizing a new kind of social app – Threads. Their inspiration was to create a text-based platform that could seamlessly connect people across different sites and platforms. The ambitious goal was to build a decentralized social network where people could post content viewable by anyone, regardless of whether they were on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, or any other app or site. This app would be the beginning of an open, interconnected social sphere where content could flow freely across the fediverse.
The Birth of Threads
The result of this vision was Threads, launched as an invite-only beta on Instagram in July 2023. Despite the limited initial rollout, word spread like wildfire. Just five days after launch, over 100 million eager users had already signed up to try Threads, skyrocketing it to the most successful app launch of all time.
Behind this staggering viral growth was Meta’s proven infrastructure and engineering foundations, which allowed Threads to scale rapidly to meet demand with no downtime or technical issues. But Threads itself traces its origins to a nimble, startup-like engineering team rather than Meta’s broader infrastructure efforts.
A Startup Ethos
To build Threads, a small squad of engineers adopted workflows more akin to an agile startup than a tech giant. Meeting in tight daily syncs and working independently, this team raced to build Threads’ core features in just a few short months. Their goal was to have a minimum viable product ready to launch at a moment’s notice.
Leveraging Meta’s Backend
To develop Threads efficiently, the engineers leveraged Meta’s existing backend technology. Using the same Python-based backend as Instagram allowed them to quickly onboard and link to Instagram’s massive existing user base. The mobile apps themselves were built with Swift and Jetpack Compose.
Close collaboration with Meta’s infrastructure teams was also key for Threads’ smooth launch. On release day, experienced production engineers coordinated launch rooms across multiple global offices, monitoring health dashboards. Their expertise at scale ensured Threads could withstand the massive influx of users.
Goals While celebrating Threads’ successful debut, the team signaled that decentralization remains central to its future. Allowing identity verification on other platforms like Mastodon demonstrated their commitment to open standards and interoperability. The long-term vision is fully integrating Threads with open protocols like ActivityPub, making social content as portable as email.
For now, work continues rapidly improving Threads’ core product experience. The team quickly prototypes and reiterates, rebuilding features until they are perfected. Recent additions include Following, keyword search, editing, and more.
The team hopes Threads becomes the go-to place for positive cultural conversations and engaging with creators across the open social web. If Meta keeps fostering its startup ethos, Threads may soon fully achieve its inspiring vision: an interconnected social sphere where content flows freely across the fediverse.