Instagram is working on a new messaging app called Threads “meant to promote constant, intimate sharing between users and their closest friends,” the Verge reported on Monday, in what seems like yet another attempt by a Facebook-owned property to edge in on Snapchat’s turf.
According to the Verge, Threads is designed as a sister app for Instagram and “invites users to automatically share their location, speed, and battery life” with members of an Instagram user’s “close friends” list, “along with more typical text, photo, and video messages using Instagram’s creative tools.” It’s currently being tested internally, the Verge wrote, and appears to be another stab at introducing a separate messaging app to Instagram. The company ceased work on a prior, standalone effort called Direct in 2017.
The Verge wrote that Threads is designed to share a wide variety of information with an Instagram user’s close friends list. That includes an opt-in “automatic sharing” feature that allows those on the list to get regular updates as to where that person is:
Screenshots reviewed by The Verge show an app that’s designed to promote constant, automatic sharing between users and the people on their “close friends” list on Instagram. Opt in to automatic sharing, and Threads will regularly update your status, giving your friends a real-time view of information about your location, speed, and more. At the moment, Threads does not display your real-time location — instead, it might say something like a friend is “on the move,” according to sources familiar with the matter.
You can also update your status manually, with statuses appearing in the main feed along with messages. It’s the latest effort to automate status sharing using mobile phone sensors and one-tap status sharing.
In other words, Threads appears to be designed to allow a selected list of friends to receive regular, automatic updates on a user’s “location, speed, and more.” Yes, this is for regular people, and not, say, for keeping tabs on where the all the dinosaurs on Jurassic Park happen to be at any moment. Yeesh.
According to the Verge, Threads also has a section where messages from friends appear in a central feed, along with a “green dot indicating which of your friends are currently active”—something that users of Facebook’s Messenger app would be familiar with. Threads also allows for users to quickly read stories posted by friends and includes its own camera function, the Verge added.
Facebook, after facing years of sustained and growing criticism of its role in everything from promoting political propaganda and hoaxes to massive data breaches and literal genocide, has signaled some major changes are in the works. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced this year that the company would be pivoting to privacy and reportedly has set in motion a project to merge the messaging backends of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. It’s hard to dodge the impression that moving from operating primarily open platforms to closed ones where what’s happening is shielded from public view could also be an attempt to mask the company’s many failures.
It’s not clear what role Threads may play in the future of Facebook. But beefing up Instagram’s messaging features while further integrating the property into Facebook’s technical backend could help Zuckerberg and crew argue that Facebook and its subsidiaries are too interconnected to break up at a time when antitrust agencies are looking into its history of corporate takeovers. According to the Verge, it is unclear when Threads may launch or whether it could get killed off before release.