Instagram’s New Messaging App Can Use Your Phone’s Sensors to Auto-Update Your Status
Facebook has unveiled a new camera-first messaging app called Threads from Instagram as it continues to emphasize a move toward private messaging and groups.
The company on Thursday announced the new standalone app, available Android and iOS, that allows Instagram users to do things like privately share photos, videos, messages, and stories with a list of their closest friends. It also lets users set their status, which can be anything from an emoji to their current location to whether they’re busy.
If users opt in to the app’s auto-status feature, Threads will track users location, movement, battery level, and network connection to automatically set a status like “on the move” or “at a café.”
“We know messaging on Instagram is something people know and love,” a Facebook spokesperson tells Fortune. “Threads gives people further audience control in how they stay connected on Instagram.”
The new Instagram-linked app comes as Mark Zuckerberg continues to shift to a privacy-focused social network that emphasizes groups, messaging, and ephemeral content. It also comes as the company continues to try to fend off fast-growing competitors like Snapchat, another photo and video-focused messaging app that recently told federal regulators about Facebook’s hardball tactics as part of an antitrust probe.
Facebook said Threads is the answer to user demand for more ways to connect with their friends throughout the day.
Last year, Instagram debuted its close friends list, allowing users to share stories—which are images or short video clips—with a small group of people. Threads creates what Facebook calls a “dedicated, private space” for that group of friends to message each other. Any messages sent through Threads will also appear in the Instagram app as a direct message.
Text messages sent on Threads will remain in a user’s history unless they’re unsent. Photos and videos can be set to allow content to be replayed or viewed only once.
Threads does not yet include all of Instagram’s features, like face filters. But Facebook said that it plans to add new capabilities as it gathers feedback from users.
Facebook said the company is still in the “early stages” for interoperability—another feature Zuckerberg has been teasing. Therefore, messages cannot flow between Thread, WhatsApp, and Messenger.
The company also said it won’t use the data related to the messages or locations of Thread users for ad-targeting purposes.
“Your conversations are between you and the people you’re talking to, and only your close friends will see your status,” a spokesperson said.
Threads comes after Facebook paid a record $5 billion Federal Trade Commission fine for its mishandling of users’ data, including up to 85 million accounts that now-shuttered political analysis firm Cambridge Analytica harvested from the social network.
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