Early on in 2019, Instagram shut down its standalone messaging app which was called Direct, and it now appears to be working on a new version of a similar messaging app. This new version aims at emphasizing and maintaining the connection between family and close friends. The new app will be called Threads, and its focus will be on building and maintaining stronger connections between members of smaller groups on the platform.
It has some similarities to Snapchat, and one of the key elements of Threads will be its automatic sharing option. When a user opts in to automatic sharing, Threads will provide continuous updates on your status, and will deliver real-time information to your friends and followers about your location and your activities.
To start with, Threads will not be able to pinpoint an exact location for where you might happen to be, but will simply inform your friends and family that you are ‘on the move’. It is expected that future enhancements will be able to display a precise location, so your acquaintances know exactly where you are. In essence, this feature of Threads will serve as something of a tracking system, and will display your movements to family and friends, so they can be updated on your whereabouts at all times.
Similar to Snap Map
Threads is expected to function in many of the same ways that Snap Map already does in keeping your connections updated about your location. It does however, go somewhat beyond that capability in providing actual updates that appear within a user’s news feed. This then, would facilitate hook-ups and meetings in real life, thereby improving connections between users, and making Instagram a virtual necessity as a constant companion.
Users would also have the ability to post manual updates, while other kinds of content would simply be connected in through Instagram. As an example, any messages from your friends might appear in your central news feed, along with a green dot that shows which of your followers or friends are active at the moment.
It will also be possible to view a Story posted by one of your friends from within Threads, so you don’t have to leave the application. Threads has its own camera which can be used to capture videos and photos, before sending them on to anyone of your choosing. In essence, Threads is direct messaging on steroids, with some notable automatic updates which have been included in the app.
Instagram’s hope is to make Threads a strong rival for Snapchat, especially with regard to keeping friends and acquaintances better connected, rather than broadcasting everything in your main feed where everyone can see it. Theoretically, this should help Instagram create stronger bonds among more youthful users, and it could make Instagram much more valuable to those individuals.
Where Direct failed
It’s no secret that Instagram’s Direct app fell far short of its expectations, as it attempted to penetrate markets in Chile, Turkey, Italy, Israel, Portugal, and Uruguay. The hope was to beat Snapchat to the punch in those areas, because Snapchat had not yet gained any kind of foothold in those countries, so they were deemed to be prime territory for exploitation.
However, things didn’t work out as expected and Direct more or less fell flat, while in the meantime Snapchat has improved its functionality. The opportunity has thus evaporated for Instagram to gain a foothold in these countries, since Snapchat has now significantly upgraded its capabilities and found strong appeal there.
It may still be possible for Instagram to gain a following in regions of the world where Snapchat has not yet become popular, and Instagram is banking on Threads to accomplish this. Instagram is also hoping that its advanced augmented reality functionality, which is included in the main app, could provide enough appeal to new users that it will stem the tide of Snapchat’s growth. This is likely to prove to be a difficult task, especially given the fact that Snapchat has somehow maintained a steady and committed audience regardless of external influences, so there may be something to the Snapchat experience beyond mere functionality.
The hope for Threads
In any case, it’s pretty obvious that Instagram intends to continue its rivalry with Snapchat, and to limit any inroads made by that platform in regions of the globe where has yet to become popular. One clear advantage that Instagram has going for it, is its vast reach and its seemingly inexhaustible supply of resources. If Snapchat has a benefit going for it, it would have to be that it has a strong connection with its user base, and that it continually produces new tools with more functionality, all of which help it to stay firmly entrenched in the minds of users.
For instance, earlier this year, Snapchat touched off a tidal wave of popularity following its launch of baby lenses and gender swap. When these two new features were launched, even online users who were not regular Snapchat members found them trendy enough and relevant enough to comment on, or to demonstrate them to family and friends.
These are the kinds of innovations that Snapchat has periodically issued, which have had the effect of maintaining a tight relationship with its user base, and with providing them with hot new features that resonate with Snapchat users as well as people outside the platform. While it may be difficult for Instagram to exceed or even to match the relationship which Snapchat has with its users, its banking on providing superior functionality to its user base in order to keep them content.
It’s also hoping to create enough buzz by its introduction of new features like Threads, so as to entice new users to the platform and to woo away previously loyal Snapchat users. Thus far, Snapchat has been able to withstand all challenges from Instagram, and the smart betting would be on Snapchat again in this case. However, it is entirely possible that Threads does capture the imagination of current Instagram users and potentially new members to the platform. If that does happen, Instagram may finally establish itself as the front runner over its longtime rival, Snapchat.