Facebook-owned Instagram launched a new messaging app Thursday that is meant to simplify communication with close Friends. Called Threads, the app also offers users an easy way to share their status to let close friends know what they’re up to.
“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,” explained Instagram director of product Robby Stein in a blog post Thursday.
Threads ties into Instagram’s existing social graph, allowing users to import their “close friends” list from the photo sharing app. Anyone who never set up a list of close friends on Instagram can instead opt to do so directly from the Threads app.
Users can then share videos, photos, stories and text messages directly with those close friends. They can also set a status like “studying,” which is displayed to all their close friends within the app — a feature that will be familiar to anyone who still remembers using PC-based messaging apps like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM).
Threads also offers a way to automatically set this type of status, in which case the app uses location and other phone sensor data to guess what a person is doing. However, Threads doesn’t actually share a user’s precise location through automatic status updates.
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Threads is Instagram’s latest attempt to duplicate out some of its functionality in a dedicated app. In June of 2018 Instagram launched a separate IGTV app for longer-form video content, while also incorporating the same content into its core app.
However, publicly available data suggests that the IGTV app didn’t exactly catch on with Instagram’s audience: On Google Play, the app has been downloaded fewer that 5 million times. Instagram itself on the other hand has been downloaded over 1 billion times on Google’s app store.