Facebook’s promised push to make social media more meaningful and intimate shows up in Instagram’s latest endeavor: a fast photo-messaging app for close friends. And the app may hit two birds with one snap, as it also seems to move more into Snapchat’s turf.
Unveiled Thursday, the new Threads companion app opens directly into the camera, just as Snapchat does, so Instagram users can quickly send photos and videos to specific individuals. It also allows people to set an emoji as a status or rely on the system to pick a status automatically based on location, movement or battery level.
Instagram already has a messaging feature baked into its main app, but the difference appears to be the intended audience.
“Over the last few years, we’ve introduced several new ways to share visually on Instagram and connect with people you care about — from sharing everyday moments on Stories to visual messages on Direct,” Robby Stein, Instagram’s director of product, wrote in the company’s blog. “But for your smaller circle of friends, we saw the need to stay more connected throughout the day, so you can communicate what you’re doing and how you’re feeling through photos and videos. That’s why we built Threads, a new way to message with close friends in a dedicated, private space.”
Instead of being buried inside another app, Threads steps forward with an always-available connection to friends. Just as Messenger lives as a separate mobile app from Facebook. The upside of this is speed, in that it takes very little time to find, shoot and share a photo or video message. The other is that, if Threads fails to get traction, it would be pretty easy to kill it off.
But Instagram is betting that people will love the app and the control that it offers. “You are in control of who can reach you on Threads, and you can customize the experience around the people who matter most,” Stein continued.
Last year, Instagram launched Close Friends, so users can narrow down smaller, more intimate groups of contacts. Likewise, Threads can create small circles of friends and in either case, it offers dedicated inboxes for those groups, plus distinct notifications for them.
The app is slated to hit the app stores for iPhone and Androids today.
With Threads, parent company Facebook can show that it’s serious about fostering personal and meaningful dialogue, and not just being an unpoliceable megaphone for extremist interests. The narrative fits neatly into Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg’s pledges across numerous earnings calls and speaking engagements.
That it also looks like a surgical strike against Snapchat — which practically originated fast photo and text DMs — could be a bonus.