Donald Trump's new social media venture, Truth Social, began its gradual rollout late Sunday and should be "fully operational" by late March, potentially raising the former U.S. president's profile more than a year after he was banned by major platforms.
"This week, we will begin to roll out to people on the Apple App store," said Devin Nunes, CEO of the Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), parent company of the new app.
The former Republican congressperson was speaking Sunday on conservative Fox News.
"I think, by the end of March, we're going to be fully operational – at least within the United States," added Nunes, who resigned from the U.S. House to lead the Trump group.
Trump has described Truth Social as an alternative to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, all of which banned him following the assault on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021.
The former president has been accused of inciting his followers to use force in a bid to overturn the result of the 2020 election.
On Sunday, the App Store was allowing visitors to preorder Truth Social starting Monday, Presidents Day holiday in the United States.
The app was available to download shortly before midnight EST and was automatically downloaded to Apple Inc. devices belonging to users who had preordered the app.
Some users reported either having trouble registering for an account or were added to a waitlist with a message: "Due to massive demand, we have placed you on our waitlist."
The app has been available for people invited to use it during its test phase, Reuters previously reported.
"It's actually very moving for me to see people that are on the platform that have had their voice canceled," Nunes said.
"We want (customers) to tell us what they would like to have on the platform, which is the opposite of some Silicon Valley tech oligarch freak telling people what they want to think and deciding who can or cannot be on the platform," he said.
Trump and his wife Melania also plan on Monday to offer for sale 10,000 NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, illustrating key moments in the Trump presidency. NFTs are certified digital images that can be bought and sold.
"TRUTH is coming..." congressperson Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, tweeted Friday, in an allusion to the ominous "Winter is coming" catchphrase of television series "Game of Thrones."
She posted a screengrab of her message on Truth Beta, the test version of the new site, saying, "I'm so excited to be on TRUTH!"
And Donald Trump Jr. celebrated on Twitter, posting, "Time for some Truth!!!" and including what he said was his father's first post on Truth Social: "Get Ready! Your favorite President will see you soon!"
TMTG, asked for comment by Agence France-Presse (AFP), did not immediately respond.
The group reportedly has a $1.25 billion treasure chest as it seeks a niche in a crowded conservative social media marketplace, currently served by platforms such as Gettr, Parler and Gab.
Before being banned by Twitter, Trump had some 89 million followers there and used the platform constantly, both for presidential statements and to attack rivals.
So far none of the newer companies, which include Twitter competitors Gettr and Parler and video site Rumble, have come close to matching the popularity of their mainstream counterparts.
Truth Social's app store page detailing its version history showed the first public version of the app, or version 1.0 was available a day ago, confirming a Reuters report. The current version 1.0.1 includes "bug fixes," according to the page.
On Friday, Nunes was on the app urging users to follow more accounts, share photos and videos and participate in conversations, in an apparent attempt to drum up activity, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.
Among Nunes' posts, he welcomed a new user who appeared to be a Catholic priest and encouraged him to invite more priests to join, according to the person with knowledge of the matter.
Even as details of the app begin trickling out, TMTG remains mostly shrouded in secrecy and is regarded with skepticism by some in tech and media circles. It is unclear, for example, how the company is funding its current growth.
TMTG is planning to list in New York through a merger with blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC) and stands to receive $293 million in cash that DWAC holds in a trust, assuming no DWAC shareholder redeems their shares, TMTG said in an Oct. 21 press release.
Additionally, in December TMTG raised $1 billion committed financing from private investors; that money also will not be available until the DWAC deal closes.
Digital World's activities have come under scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, according to a regulatory filing, and the deal is likely months away from closing.
Trump, who is 75, has hinted but never definitively said whether he will seek the presidency again.
He is currently under the shadow of multiple investigations and lawsuits, including over his tax filings and his efforts to cling to power after losing the 2020 election.