The public feud between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk is the gift that keeps on giving.
The snarky rivalry between the two influential tech billionaires has heated up in recent weeks, with challenges coming for a cage fight and “a literal dick measuring contest.” On Tuesday, Zuckerberg appeared to have been training for said cage match after he posted to Instagram a shirtless photo of him with MMA fighters Israel Adesanya and Alex Volkanovski.
The feud gained renewed widespread attention a week ago when Meta CEO Zuckerberg launched Threads, an app that’s been called a “Twitter killer” by techies, and saw the platform reach 10 million users in the first seven hours. Musk bought Twitter last year for $44 billion.
How on earth did we get here? Let’s take a walk down memory lane to try to understand.
2016: SpaceX failure to launch
Public bickering between Musk and Zuckerberg first began after Musk’s company SpaceX failed to launch a Facebook satellite that was intended to be used to beam internet access to developing nations in 2016.
In a Facebook post at the time, Zuckerberg said he was “deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite.”
Later in 2018, Musk responded to the incident on Twitter with: “Yeah, my fault for being an idiot. We did give them a free launch to make up for it and I think they had some insurance.”
2017: AI arguing
During a Facebook Live in 2017, a user asked Zuckerberg for his thoughts on Musk’s anxieties around AI.
“I have pretty strong opinions on this,” Zuckerberg said. “With AI especially, I’m really optimistic, and I think that people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios … I don’t understand it. It’s really negative, and in some ways, I actually think it’s pretty irresponsible.”
Musk shot back on Twitter: “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.”
2018: ‘What’s Facebook?’
A year later, Musk called it quits with Facebook by deleting the accounts of his companies Tesla and SpaceX while #DeleteFacebook was trending.
“What’s Facebook?” Musk tweeted at the time, responding to WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton encouraging people to ditch their Facebook accounts. Musk also insisted that he didn’t know SpaceX had a Facebook page but pledged to delete it any way. He also said the Tesla Facebook page looked “lame.”
2023: Downhill from there
Fast forward a few years, and the feud heats up. In January, Musk tweeted that Meta-owned Instagram makes people depressed, and in May said that WhatsApp — which Facebook purchased in 2014 — “cannot be trusted.”
Late last month, Musk said he’s “up for a cage match if [Zuckerberg] is.” Zuckerberg responded with a screenshot of Musk’s tweet and a caption stating “Send Me Location” on his Instagram story. Cut to Tuesday, when we got the aforementioned photo of Zuckerberg’s chiseled new look.
Shortly after the Threads app launched last week, Zuckerberg took to Twitter for the first time in over 10 years when he posted the popular meme of two Spidermen pointing at each other — not-so-subtly hinting at the fact that Threads is competing with Twitter.
And just this week: Musk tweeted that “Censorship pays them well” in response to a post accusing Facebook of spreading misinformation; Zuckerberg responded to a suggestion that Twitter had blocked Threads from appearing in its trending topics with one sarcastic remark: “concerning” (and a laughing emoji); and Zuckerberg posted another laughing emoji to Threads after fast-food company Wendy’s suggested: “hey @zuck, you should go to space to just really make him mad lol.”