What is Threads, the new Instagram app

Facebook has made Threads available to everyone, a new application to exchange messages with their closest contacts on Instagram. Some features of the app had already been unveiled last August by technology sites, but without Instagram providing confirmations. Threads has been designed to make it easier to exchange content – photos and videos – with your friends, supporting the growing demand from users of spaces where they can stay in touch only with the people they care about most through social media. However, some features of the new app, such as the ability to create automatic status updates, raise some concerns about privacy and seem (very much) inspired by Snapchat.

When it is started, Threads remembers the apps for the camera: the first thing you see is in fact the frame provided by the lens of your smartphone. The idea is to provide a system that is immediately ready to take a photo or shoot a video to share with your friends. Content cannot be added to filters as is the case with the classic Instagram app. Your favorite contacts can be added at the bottom of the screen, so you can turn the content around faster, without having to search for them later in the friends list.

Threads also has a section from which messages can be read and sent, similar to Instagram’s internal chat. Unlike the latter, however, only the contacts that have been indicated as closest and with which you have the most confidence are visible in the new chat. There is also the possibility of starting group chats, but only if each participant is on the list of closest friends of the others.

The most controversial part of Threads concerns the possibility of adding automatic status updates, which are managed directly by the application. In this case, the app uses information about its position and the activities typically performed during the day, gradually modifying its states. Each status update is accompanied by an emoji, which illustrates the activity that is taking place. Instagram says that it will not maintain the exact location of each user in its systems and that the automatic states are derived from the context, and by changes made by users when they decide to manually indicate the activity they are doing.

The information on the automatic states will also be shown only to your closest contacts, but the fact that Threads offers rather insistent messages to activate the new function does not appeal to those who deal with privacy. The app will probably be used by many teenagers, who do not always have a clue as to how their online activities are traced, and who could then provide more information to Facebook (which controls Instagram that controls Threads) and to other people in their circles of acquaintances.

Predicting controversy and criticism over automatic states, Instagram accompanied the launch of Threads with a post dedicated to privacy. The company explained that the new app will use information such as: “your location, your movements, your battery level and connection to the cellular network to determine what context information to share”. This is a considerable amount of information, but it is worth remembering that several other applications collect similar information, even if they do not transform it into an automatic status update.

Many have observed how Threads has elements in common with Snapchat , an application from which Facebook has drawn much inspiration in recent years to radically change Instagram. Snapchat is constantly subjected to intense competition from Instagram and could suffer even more, considering that so far the Facebook app had conducted few experiments around the systems to exchange messages directly, functions where Snapchat has always collected a greater success. Earlier this year, Instagram closed Direct, an app that allowed you to use your chat separately from the rest of the social network, evidently to devote more attention to the development of Threads.

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