Facebook is pushing deeper into direct messaging with a new Instagram companion app called Threads that adopts many of the popular features of rival Snapchat, namely making it easy for people to privately share photos and videos that automatically delete.
Threads will be a more tailored experience than the main Instagram app and will only let users message people on their Close Friends list. Adding friends to the list will provide Facebook with critical data about who is most important to the user and make it easier to message them quickly throughout the day. The company says there are no plans to monetize Threads, but of course, that could change over time.
The app works by opening directly to your phone’s camera, similar to the way that Snapchat works. It makes sharing photos and videos—with filters, doodles, and stickers—as simple as tapping just a couple of times.
Anyone who has ever used the Snapchat app will feel right at home, taking a photo or video, adding commentary or stickers, and then selecting who they’d like to send it to—either a group or directly to another user.
One of the few unique features included in Threads is the ability to select friends and set their profile photo as a camera shutter button, so that they can send photos and videos to that person in just a couple of taps.
Another new feature is the inclusion of a “status,” which lets you share a short phrase about what you’re doing with an emoji representation such as “☕️At a cafe” or “🏠At home.” Users will be able to opt in to an auto-status feature that automatically updates by tracking your GPS coordinates, similar to Snap Maps. Threads will not share your exact location, and only your Close Friends list will see your status.
The launch of Threads can be perceived as a direct shot across the bow of Snapchat. Facebook and Snap have had a longstanding rivalry, especially as more young users flock to Snapchat. A recent Pew study found that Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are “substantially more likely than those ages 25 to 29 to say they use Snapchat (73% vs. 47%) and Instagram (75% vs. 57%).”
Facebook is still the most widely used social media site with about seven-in-ten U.S. adults saying they use it, according to Pew Research. Only about half of U.S. teens (51%) ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, which is significantly lower than the percentage that use YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. So naturally, Facebook is trying to fortify its social media offerings.
Facebook’s repeated attempts to capture a younger audience have raised the ire of many regulators. Snap Inc., the parent company of Snapchat, reportedly kept a dossier of ways its legal team felt Facebook was trying to snuff out competition. The title of the dossier—Project Voldemort—was recently disclosed in a Wall Street Journal report that claims Snap Inc. is working with the Federal Trade Commission on an investigation into Facebook’s aggressive growth tactics.
In addition to the FTC investigation, Facebook is facing three other antitrust investigations. The Department of Justice is also conducting a review of the company’s business practices along with a group of state attorneys general led by New York and the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.
“We face a highly competitive landscape for every product and service that we offer—including photo and video sharing, messaging and advertising,” a company spokesperson told Forbes when asked about antitrust concerns. “As we continue to innovate and build new products and services, our focus is on building products and services that people find useful, and if we stop doing that there are popular alternatives for people to explore.”
The Verge reported in August that Instagram would be launching the Threads app before the end of the year. Facebook stock is up 1.45% on the news; Snap stock is down 4.73%.
by Michael Nuñez forbes.com