Instagram today revealed it’s launching Threads, an Instagram spin-off app specifically for private messages between friends — similar to Facebook’s Messenger. Whether it’ll actually last as long as Messenger has remains to be seen.
The app is camera-first, meaning your own face is likely to be the first thing you see upon entering the app. You can quickly take a picture and shoot it off to a friend. Users have access to Instagram’s suite of photo- and video-editing features, so it’s pretty much the same as sending a DM on Instagram itself.
Users can also share one-word statuses accompanied by an emoji — which used to be a big thing on Facebook before it kind of fizzled out. If need be, you can set Threads to “auto-status,” which apparently preemptively tells friends what you’re up to (never thought I’d see the day when you could be both lazy and give TMI, but there you go).
We first heard about Threads in August, when reports circulated that Facebook was testing the new app internally. The primary difference between Threads and Instagram proper is that it’s strictly for communicating with Close Friends — by which I mean the feature introduced last year that allows users to share Stories privately with a curated list of best pals. You can only use Threads with the people on this list. If you don’t have one, you’ll be prompted to create one when you open the app for the first time.
Threads isn’t a terrible idea at first glance. There’s a large subset of Instagrammers for whom the app is their primary social media. So, in that respect, it makes sense to invest in a dedicated DM app. Facebook did it with Messenger, and it seems to have worked out alright for them. Also, Instagram proper has become a platform for cultivating an audience, so creating a separate space just for your nearest and dearest might be helpful for those users with a large following — a sort of separation of the public and private.
But it’s definitely starting at a bit of a disadvantage. For starters, it needs to differentiate itself enough from Instagram to justify its use. Messages you get in Threads will still appear in your Instagram Direct inbox. And the former is not going to offer a long list of potential correspondents. Instagram’s director of product, Robby Stein, told The Verge that the average user who has a Close Friends list only has about one-to-two dozen people on it.
Why not just… keep using Instagram Direct? Getting a new app strictly for communicating with a handful of buddies seems like a bit of a hassle. The last time I downloaded an app on which I had so few people to talk to, I was reviewing Vero.