Instagram unveils a companion app, Threads, for close friends

Instagram has just released its companion app, Threads, for its platform. Threads is a “new camera-first messaging app that helps you stay connected to close friends.”

According to an official blog post by the tech giant, the “Stories” and “Direct Messages” feature of the app allowed users to connect with their friends and followers. But with the new app, a user can connect with “a smaller circle of friends.” The app lets you share status updates, messages, photos, and videos with close friends. You can still message Close Friends from Instagram Direct Messages. The app boasts that it helps you stay connected with your friends throughout the day. Even when you can get in touch with them, the statuses will update your friends about your activity. Robby Stein, Instagram’s director of the product, says, “If most of your conversations happen with just a handful of people, why isn’t there a messaging experience around those few people?”

Many have noticed that the new app is similar to Snapchat. eMarketer analyst, Jasmine Enberg says, “It definitely isn’t the first time Instagram has taken a page out of Snapchat’s playbook.” Earlier, the Stories on Instagram were similar to Snapchat’s format of disappearing photos and videos after 24-hours. Although Instagram copied Snapchat outright, its Stories feature has become popular than Snapchat. About 500 million people use Instagram Stories each day, while only 200 million users are on Snapchat each day.

Threads—The new app by Instagram

Instagram introduced the Close Friends feature last year. On Instagram, users can choose people from their follower’s list and add them to Close Friends. So users can share Stories with Close Friends only. The Threads app builds on top of this feature. Threads are separate from Instagram, but you can use your Instagram username and password to login to the new app. The app syncs the list of Close Friends with Instagram.

The default screen of the app is the camera. Icons appear on the bottom of the display screen. So you can share pictures and videos with two to three friends. Take a picture or record a video, tap on the friend’s icon, and send it.

In addition to this, you can send messages to close friends using Threads. The messages are synced with the Direct Messages on Instagram. So if someone not present in your Close Friends list sends you a message via Threads, you will receive it in DM on Instagram. You can also message Close Friends using DM.

The third feature of the app is that you can share statuses with your close friends. Users can choose suggested statuses, create their own, or turn on Auto Statuses. Auto Status access the location and battery level of your device to inform your friends if you are “On the move,” “Out to Dinner,” etc. Similarly, it can notify your friends if you have a low battery. These are only visible to close friends. You can turn off Auto-Status.

The Auto Status feature is concerning because it can put the user’s privacy at risk. Instagram published a blog post, putting these concerns to rest. The post says that users have complete control over who they share information with.

  • You can delete people from the Close Friends list, without the app informing the person. Moreover, you will not receive a request to be added to the Close Friends list. It is the choice of the user to add whoever they want.
  • Also, the Auto-Status feature uses information such as the charging state of the phone, network status, and location. Users can turn it off if they do not wish to use Auto-Status.
  • The app does not use precise location to send updates. It uses “context” to build statuses, without giving any specific details about your activity.
  • When it comes to ads, the app does not share a precise location. However, the app collects data for ads the same way it does for Facebook and Instagram.

The app claims to not infringe on user privacy. Thread’s product manager says, “We wanted to focus on context, not coordinates. We’re not sharing the restaurant you’re at, but we want to provide that high-level context.”

There is no way of knowing how the app will perform among users. However, it does seem strikingly similar to Snapchat. Snapchat already has a location-sharing feature that uses maps to pinpoint the accurate location of friends. The Threads app may be doing it a similar way, but it does not share the exact location of a close friend.

With the Threads app, it is evident that Facebook (Instagram’s parent company) is pushing into group messaging where you can share location, pictures, videos, and statuses with an exclusive group of friends. Let’s see whether users are willing to use this platform to share minute details about their lives.

There are enough features on the app that allows the user to share information with a select group of friends. On Instagram, users can send snaps to particular friends. Moreover, they can have group chats as well. The question remains: was it necessary to introduce a separate app for this purpose?

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