Donald Trump’s social media app debuted on Monday as the former US president tries to build a conservative rival to Twitter and Facebook ahead of a possible 2024 campaign to retake the White House.
The new platform, Truth Social, is among brands being launched by Trump Media & Technology Group, the media start-up created last year in an attempt to fight what he said was the “tyranny of Big Tech”.
Trump used social media extensively during his 2016 campaign and throughout his presidency, often bypassing traditional information channels. But Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet’s YouTube banned him, following the attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6 2021.
Truth Social topped the mobile downloads ranking for Apple’s App Store in the US, according to data from Sensor Tower, higher than popular apps such as Wordle and TikTok.
However, the app also exhibited some technical problems on Monday, the Presidents’ Day federal holiday in the US. Some users received error messages or were unable to sign up.
Users who succeeded in registering were met with a message telling them: “Due to massive demand, we have placed you on our wait-list. We love you, and you’re not just another number to us.”
TMTG did not respond for to a request for comment or to say how many people had registered for Truth Social as of Monday.
In addition to Truth Social, which mirrors some features of Twitter, TMTG suggested in a prospectus last year that it could launch an entertainment company to rival Netflix and Disney, a news channel to take on CNN and a venture to compete with Amazon and Google in cloud computing.
The development of Truth Social has proven bumpy. The app uses free, open-source software for running social networking services known as Mastodon.
Last year Mastodon threatened Truth Social with legal action for breaching its open-source licence after it had failed to acknowledge or credit its use of the software. Shortly afterwards, a link to Mastodon’s code was added to the Truth Social website.
Devin Nunes, a Republican former chair of the US House Intelligence Committee, resigned from his seat late last year to become chief executive of TMTG. Nunes told Fox News on Sunday that Truth Social was a work in progress, with the “goal” of being “fully operational, at least within the United States” by the end of March.
In October, TMTG announced a merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company, which would take the company public. TMTG later said it had raised $1bn in private investment in public equity financing.
Shares in DWAC have gained more than eightfold since the merger was announced. In December it emerged that US regulators were investigating DWAC, seeking information about trading activity around the proposed deal.
Several other conservative rivals to Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, such as Parler and Gettr, have failed to break the bigger platforms’ social media might.
Trump has been raising large sums of money and holding rallies in Republican heartlands in recent months, although the 75-year-old has not explicitly said whether he intends to run for the White House again in 2024.
He continues to maintain considerable influence with the GOP grassroots and will be the keynote speaker at next weekend’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida.