Have you ever wished that Instagram would automatically let your friends know whether you are ‘on the move’, ‘working’, ‘at home’, or ‘chilling and might want to hang out’. This is exactly what you get with Instagram’s new companion app called “Threads”, a camera-first messaging app that allows users to instantly share videos and photos with their closest friends. Threads also offers two “as yet unheard of” features, called Status and Auto Status. You can manually setup emojis as way of a status to show your close friends what you are up to or allow Instagram to do so automatically based on your accelerometer, network health, location, or your phone’s battery level to keep people updated on your movements throughout the day.
Launching globally on both Android and iOS, this is Instagram and Facebook’s next big swing targeting Snapchat’s top use case: text messaging with your best friends and rapid-fire camera. Sick of your inbox brimming over with clicks of people you couldn’t care less about? Threads takes care of this since you only receive posts from people in your Instagram Close Friends list. Now, you have a legit reason to jump at every ping, since your best friend could be sneaking off to the club without you. You can choose to use Instagram Direct in the main app, or the two in parallel, if you want.
With Threads, we finally get to witness the launch of the “emoji status” feature, that Facebook has been working on for the last 18 months. Furthermore, the two status update features offer opportunities to meet up online, contextual clues as to why your friend has been off the grid and serve as conversation starters. Instead of sharing your exact location, it leaves out a map and instead focus on “what someone is doing,” not “where they are at any moment.” This lets you know which friends are available to hang out, or which friend’s phone is going to die soon.
Over the last couple of years, Instagram has been pioneering newer and better ways for people to connect with the ones they care about and share visually on Instagram; be it sharing visual stories on Direct or everyday moments on Stories. However, this left a gap for those who want to stay more connected throughout the day, keep those close to them updated on their activities and how they were feeling through videos and photos. This is exactly why Instagram came up with threads to allow those people to stay connected with their close circle in a dedicated, safe-from-prying-eyes space.
At a glance, Threads incorporates all the features you would expect from a regular messaging app. Essentially, just like SnapChat, Threads opens to the camera and offers hassle-free options for sending videos, photos, and text to a selected group of friends. All those people added to your Instagram ‘close friends’ list automatically become your contacts in Threads. So basically, this list comprises of all those select few who are within your inner circle.
Thread has a clear edge over other rival apps since it offers “persistent connection”. It addresses three very important priorities: Staying more connected throughout the day with the people who are important, even when you don’t have the time to engage in conversation, speed, since most of your messages only go to a couple of people, and the ability to control who can reach you. Threads cements itself as an app where you get to select who you contact or who contacts you, while pigeonholing other noisy channels such as Snapchat, WeChat and SMS, for their unsolicited alerts.
Enabling Passive Sharing Through the Day
A few years ago, something made me long for apps that would bring us closer together by breaking down the ambiguity of what out friends are up to and whether they are available, without having to ping them desperately and then feel embarrassed if they don’t reply back. Many products have come and left, failing to make us a tad bit less lonely through offline intent, passive sharing, and location broadcasting.
While Foursquare helps you pin your exact location at any given time, while its app Swarm auto-shared it, would it matter where you were if you didn’t want me dropping in or if you were too busy to meet me? Similarly, Facebook Nearby Friends and Snap Map focused more on where someone was than what they were doing there. With the ‘Down To Lunch’ app, you can post an emoji as your status and keep your friends updated on your activities, but it failed to convert “I am available” to “lets meet up”.
We needed an app that values the importance of only sharing sensitive info with the right people, that incorporates built-in chat for getting together, and that focuses more on intention to meet than location. This is where Threads fits the bill.
Status lets you set an emoji as your away status for up to four hours. Choose a pre-defined emoji status with its own tagline or define a new one from a wide array of emojis, depending on what you are trying to portray. For instance, you can say you are (studying), (busy), or (free).
On the other hand, when Auto status is turned on, it gives Instagram the permission to choose an emoji for you based on data signals. Instead of sharing your actual location at any time, it deciphers your activity such as “eating”, “travelling out of town”, or “drinking at a bar.” Your accelerometer tells if you’re driving, biking, or “on the move”. For the cherry on top, it can auto-change your status to “On the move” when you are moving faster than a walking pace, “At home” when you return to the same place you have been coming to for several nights in a row, “On the clock” when it notices you have arrived to the same place that you have been coming to for several weekdays in a row that is not your home. Other auto status includes “at the beach”, “shopping”, “out and about”, and many more depending on the location inference and your phone’s movement.
It can access your phone battery and let your friends know when your phone is about to die out (battery low) or currently charging (Charging). You might be wondering, why would anyone ever want to share their battery status. Think of it like this; if you’re charging your phone, you could be slow to respond or not answer your phone at all. Or if your phone is low on battery, you won’t be available until it is “on charge” again. Now, while you can’t keep posting your battery status publicity, because that would be too weird, this helps your friends know when you are not available to talk.
As per Instagram:
“We’ve heard that you want an easier way to keep up with your friends throughout the day – especially when you don’t have the time to send a photo or have a conversation. That’s why we created status. You can choose from a suggested status (???? Studying), create your own (???? Procrastinating), or turn on Auto Status (???? On the move), which automatically shares little bits of context on where you are without giving away your coordinates. Only your close friends will see your status, and it’s completely opt-in.”
As for those who saw the red flag in an application that accessed every waking moment of their lives, Facebook said,
“If you enable Auto Status, Threads will request your location, movement, battery level and network connection from your phone in order to determine what context to share. For example, Auto Status might use your precise location to show your friends that you’re “☕ At a cafe.” Or Auto Status might detect that you’re biking and set your status to “???? On the Move.” Before this is enabled, you’ll be told what information Auto Status is requesting and will be asked to specifically agree. Auto Status will not share your precise location with your friends, and when Threads sends location information to our server to look up locations, it’s not stored there – this information is only stored on your device for a limited time. It is also deleted if you remove Threads.”
How It Works?
Being a “Camera-first” app, Threads opens straight into the camera mode as soon as you tap on it. Hold the shutter to record a video or tap it once for a photograph; nothing new for Insta fans. Oh, but don’t try to swipe to add a filter or effect, since this is where since you won’t find any. Instagram is as yet keeping quiet on the matter. It does however all you to add text or scribble on your videos and photos.
Coming back to the camera view, the main interface consists of Home, shortcuts, and shutter button. Home Is where you can change themes, shortcuts, and statues, create groups, and view all your direct messages. And the best part, you can choose to run your app in either light or dark mode.
Nevertheless, wherever you are in Threads, be it direct messages or home, you can always access the Close Friends and camera shortcuts. You can view people’s Insta stories in your DMs, but their profiles can only be viewed from Instagram only. This makes sense since Instagram is supposed to be a messaging app; not a pretext to like and browse your friends’ pictures.
In order to offer additional integration, messages sent via Threads appear in both your Threads app and in Direct messages, so that you don’t have to force your friends to come aboard the new app straight away. This is because Threads is designed for more intimate communication and interaction.
Threads only works with the people you’ve chosen for your Close Friends list on Instagram. So if you already have people added to your Close Friends Circle, who sees your Instagram Stories, Threads will feel natural. In addition, you can choose, whether your messages go to your entire Close Friends list, to sub-groups within that list, or even to an individual person.