Instagram has launched a new standalone app called Threads today that allows quick image and video messaging to your close friends list. The company is pitching the app to people who want to send pictures of themselves or what’s going on in their day to their friends…all day long. This may not be you, it may not be me, but, well, it’s plenty of people. Teens. Probably teens, right?
A one-on-one messaging app for close friends on Instagram fits very nicely with the vision Mark Zuckerberg unveiled this spring for a privacy-focused version of the internet with private messaging as a centerpiece. Threads also is a direct competitor to what Snapchat has been uniquely successful at: private messaging for young people who want to send photos back and forth all day. Even the name “threads” feels like a swipe at Snapchat’s “streaks” (where you and a friend message back and forth unbroken days in a row).
Here’s how Threads works:
When you open Threads, you’ll see the people in your close friends list (Instagram rolled out "close friends" last year so that you could post stories to just a select few people). You can only use Threads with people in your close friends list. If someone hasn’t added you back as a close friend, your message will still get sent to them, but it’ll appear in their regular Instagram DMs, not their Threads app. If your friend hasn’t downloaded Threads, your message will just show up in regular DMs.
The camera lacks some of the bells and whistles of Instagram stories — no fun face filters in the selfie-mode camera, for example. You just take a picture — here’s my bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich! — and send to one account or a group.
A feature on Threads that doesn’t exist on regular Instagram DMs is a status message. You can set your own status message as an emoji, or if you’re feeling wild, try the automatic status.
The automatic status uses map information to put up a status if you’re, for example, at a café, the gym, driving in a car, or at home. It doesn’t list the actual address or name of the place you’re at, though, to protect your privacy. (It can also use information from your phone to create statuses like “low battery.”) Instagram says that this information is not used for ad targeting. Precise location data is only stored on your device, not Facebook’s servers, and is deleted after an unspecified amount of time.
The automatic status begs not only the question “would you trust Instagram to do this?” but also “why?” If you can think of a good answer, please let me know. Seriously. My family is starving, and all I have is this picture of a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.
A draft photo can be deleted by clicking an X or by swiping down. A previous version of this article misstated this.