Threads is just an excuse; Musk-Zuck's years-old fight started in the sky
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg’s years-old bitter rivalry has come to a head these days with the launch of Threads last week by the Meta chief. While the new kid on the social media block is being seen as a strong Twitter competitor, Twitter boss Musk dismissed it as “just Instagram minus pics” in a tweet on Saturday.
Interestingly, it’s not merely a “war of words” on social media platforms — a pretty unsavoury one at that — between the tech behemoths any longer, but one that is threatening to turn into a “physical war” as well, with Musk proposing an MMA-style cage match last month. He has even invited Zuckerberg to “a literal d**k measuring contest” and followed it up with a tweet that read, “Why hasn’t Zuck responded to my challenge?” on Tuesday. He sure seems keen on a fight.
In fact, the eccentric billionaire has already taken the fight to Zuckerberg, albeit legally. Right after Meta launched Threads last Wednesday (July 5), Musk’s lawyers sent the company a cease-and-desist letter, alleging that it was a “copycat” platform and accusing Meta of “systematic, wilful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property”.
However, Zuckerberg seemed to mock Musk with his first tweet in a decade. It was simply a Spider-Man meme, with two men in identical Spider-suits pointing fingers at each other.
Who wins the fight of fortunes?
The Tesla and SpaceX owner, who has been concerned over Twitter’s dwindling fortunes ever since he acquired it last year, has got the platform embroiled in one controversy after another since then, resulting in a loss of users to similar platforms such as BlueSky and Mastodon. And then came Threads. While Twitter is left with about 250 million active users right now, media reports suggest that in a week, 100 million users have signed up on Threads.
While Musk has gone all hammer and tongs at Zuckerberg, calling him a “cuck” — a short for “cuckold”, a derogatory term used mainly by the right wing — the Meta CEO has kept it more subtle. Recently, he responded to at least two Threads posts with one word — “concerning” — taking a dig at Musk who often uses the word in his tweets.
While the launch of Threads has pushed up Zuckerberg’s net worth by $1.2 billion in a week, Musk recently reclaimed his spot as the world’s wealthiest person. According to Forbes, Zuckerberg’s wealth has jumped 137 per cent, from $43.8 billion to $103 billion, since the beginning of 2023, while Musk’s net worth has climbed by 68 per cent, from $146.5 billion to $246 billion. Zuckerberg is currently the world’s eighth-richest person.
Will they settle the scores physically?
However, their riches do not seem to be enough to desist the two men from even getting into a physical fight if the need be. It was Musk who, last month, posted that he was “up for a cage fight”, while Zuckerberg retaliated with a post that read “Send me location” — a catchphrase of renowned UFC athlete Khabib Nurmagomedov.
However, the fight may not ultimately happen, especially with Musk’s mother Maye Musk intervening, advising her son to stay content with verbal communication instead of a physical fight. “Don’t encourage this match!” she recently tweeted.
But at least Zuckerberg is reportedly quite serious about the match, and has even joined training sessions with two prominent UFC champions, Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski. In fact, he even competed in a public martial arts tournament in Redwood City, California, in May, winning gold and silver.
Musk, on the other hand, has tweeted that he “almost never” works out but had trained in (Japanese martial arts) “judo, Kyokushin (full contact)” and “no rules streetfighting”. He has even admitted that he once suffered a back injury that required surgery after an exhibition match with a sumo wrestler.
Even in terms of age, the younger Zuckerberg (39) clearly has an advantage over the 52-year-old Musk. But then, it was Musk who took the fight to Zuck.
The fight that started in the sky
In the zillion-dollar Silicon Valley, Zuck and Musk are not the first to be known for their infamous feud. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates used to take frequent digs at each other. But then, what is Zuckerberg and Musk’s rivalry about? Well, you cannot expect two multi-billionaires to fight over mundane things. Their fight started in the sky. Well, nearly.
The first instance of their spat in public memory goes back to 2016, when a SpaceX rocket exploded, destroying a Facebook satellite in the process. The satellite — that would have been Facebook’s first in orbit — was supposed to ride the rocket into space.
Another major area of contention between the two is artificial intelligence. Musk is well known for his anxieties around AI while Zuckerberg has publicly said that he is “really optimistic” about it.
Musk has also taken jibes at Facebook repeatedly, linking it to the violent insurrection in Washington, DC and making a public show of deleting SpaceX and Tesla’s Facebook pages when it became embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018. Musk tweeted that Facebook gave him “the willies”. He has also urged people to delete Facebook and openly campaigned against it in 2020, criticizing its data-sharing practices and accusing it of “spying” on users.