After shutting down its standalone messaging app 'Direct' earlier this year, Instagram is reportedly working on a new iteration of the same, which aims to put more focus on maintaining connection between close friends.
According to The Verge, Instagram's latest weapon on this front is a new messaging app called 'Threads' which will look to focus on building stronger, more constant connection between smaller, enclosed groups. Kind of like Snapchat, but Instagram's own version - which, in some ways, has become Instagram's product development template.
A key element of Threads would be an automatic sharing option - as explained by The Verge:
"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."
That seems like an odd move for Instagram, and parent company Facebook, to make at this stage, providing a process that would essentially post updates on your behalf, in order to keep your connections updated on your movements - like a tracking system for your close connections. Do people really want that?
I guess it's somewhat similar to the Snap Map, which keeps connections updated on your location - that would, based on this early insight, be the best comparison for the functionality, though expanded to include actual updates which would appear within a news feed. That could theoretically help to facilitate real-life meet-ups and improve connection, making Instagram a more essential companion.
Users would also be able to post manual updates, while other Instagram content would be connected:
"Messages from your friends appear in a central feed, with a green dot indicating which of your friends are currently active. If your friend has posted a story recently, you can view that from inside Threads as well. Threads also has a camera, which you can use to capture photos and videos and send them to your close friends."
So, really, it's just an amped-up version of DMs, with slightly creepy automatic updates added in. The aim, as noted, would be to make Instagram more of a rival for Snap, in regards to keeping close friends more connected, as opposed to broadcasting in your main feed for all to see. That could help Instagram build stronger bonds with younger users - or it could, as Direct did, fall flat.
Hard to say which way it will actually go at this stage.
With its previous effort 'Direct', Instagram sought to provide Snapchat's connective capacity in regions where Snap had failed to gain a foothold, originally launching the separate app in Uruguay, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Portugal and Israel. Snap has since improved its functionality, which likely lessens the capacity for Instagram to beat them to the punch, but still, it is possible that Instagram could look to follow the same process, and seek to introduce Threads into regions where Snap is not yet popular.
If Threads can replicate the Snap experience enough, and with its advanced AR functionality in the main app, maybe Instagram could slow Snap's growth in new markets. Maybe - though history has shown that Snapchat has been able to maintain a steady, dedicated audience either way. Maybe it's not just the functionality itself that Snap has going for it.
Regardless, Instagram is clearly going to keep pushing back against Snapchat, in order to limit its capacity to ever become a true rival. Instagram has the advantage of expanded reach and resources, while Snap has the benefit of being more in touch with its audience, enabling it to continually come out with new tools and tricks that keep it front of mind.
In that sense, Instagram could come out with a heap of competing apps and never come close to matching Snap.
That doesn't mean it will, or even should, give up on such, but at this stage, the odds would be leaning in favor of Snap withstanding yet another Instagram challenge.