Plans for Instagram’s upcoming Twitter rival leak online
A series of leaks have laid bare Instagram’s new app — a text-based service that looks a lot like Twitter, ahead of its rumoured launch this month.
Having already glimpsed its design, features, and logo, we now know its alleged title. The new platform, referred to as Project 92, could be called Threads, according to The Verge.
What does the name tell us about the new service? Well, a thread is essentially a collection of posts or emails on a single topic. If you frequent Twitter, you’re bound to have come across a thread at some point as they get thrown around a lot by tech founders, journalists and AI enthusiasts.
Instagram owner Meta reportedly revealed the name at an internal meeting where it also took potshots at Elon Musk’s handling of Twitter.
“We’ve been hearing from creators and public figures who are interested in having a platform that is sanely run, that they believe that they can trust and rely upon for distribution,” Meta chief product officer Chris Cox reportedly told staff.
News of the new app’s name follows a recent leak that revealed its logo. The icon, which was unearthed from the app’s code by developer Alessandro Paluzzi, basically looks like a white “@” symbol on a pastel-coloured background.
It’s also likely a big hint at the type of service Instagram has in store; a platform that will be more about sparking conversations than gawking at images.
After all, you have to type in that same symbol before a person’s username when addressing them on Twitter and a range of other social networks.
#Instagram continues to work on "Barcelona" their new text-based social network, let's see the app icon 👀
ℹ️ No, the app hasn't been released yet. pic.twitter.com/Z9fVBaLcZN
— Alessandro Paluzzi (@alex193a) June 1, 2023
What will Instagram’s new Twitter rival look like?
In a direct challenge to Twitter, the new service will allow you to share text-based posts using your existing Instagram credentials.
Last month, one of the people secretly testing it out leaked the best look yet at the upcoming platform. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor Lia Haberman tweeted a promotional image of the app, featuring screenshots of its Twitter-like design and information about its functionality. The new platform could be available as soon as the end of June, Haberman said on her blog.
Based on a (somewhat blurry) example I got, Meta's new app looks a lot like Twitter.
So, could this take over all the Twitter screenshots we've been seeing on the Feed lately? Maybe.
It’s impossible to predict how audiences will respond but this could be an alternative. pic.twitter.com/xgQa1kUjCl
— Lia Haberman (@liahaberman) May 19, 2023
Based on the images, the new service will let you share text, pics, videos, and links that other users can interact with through replies, likes, and shares. It will also carry over many of the privacy controls offered on Instagram proper, including accounts you’ve blocked and settings that dictate who can engage with your posts.
An internal image shared by The Verge, meanwhile, showed its Instagram-style buttons and menu icons, including a magnifying glass that we assume will let you view trending posts like the Instagram Explore page.
How is Instagram’s new app different from Twitter?
So far, it all seems uncannily similar to Twitter. However, the app will reportedly set itself apart from its main rival by offering a decentralised social network. In the leak, Instagram owner Meta says the new service will be compatible with other social platforms, including Twitter competitor Mastodon. For general users, this could result in more followers, an aspect that should be welcomed by influencers and celebrities.
As previous reports have stated, the app will also allow users to create individual, independent servers (or rooms) organised around specific themes, topics or interests, with the ability to message others across this sprawling network of forums.
#Instagram is working on a new app called "Barcelona" 👀
I wonder if it is the codename for their new text-based social network to compete with #Twitter pic.twitter.com/q8LJTc1JG7
— Alessandro Paluzzi (@alex193a) March 28, 2023
These groups could set their own community standards, theoretically giving users more say and autonomy over their servers, instead of them being monitored by Meta. However, as the latest leak reveals, users will have to adhere to Instagram’s community guidelines.
Meta confirmed the existence of the app in March. “We’re exploring a standalone decentralised social network for sharing text updates,” the company said. “We believe there’s an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests.”
The new app will be able to do all this by using the same decentralised social network protocol as Mastodon, the briefly hot platform that some Twitter users jumped ship to after Elon Musk’s takeover.
However, it remains to be seen if Meta can make decentralised social networking work. The buzz around Mastodon has notably died down in recent months, with some users initially complaining that the service was difficult to navigate. The biggest sticking point for newcomers is that it can be hard to find other people to follow across its vast network of servers.
But, similar community-oriented services already exist, though the biggest of them all is not decentralised: namely, Reddit. On this, users join and interact with communities around a range of topics, which span everything from mainstream subjects such as politics to niche interests such as backyard chickens. Most of these are overseen by volunteer moderators.
Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is also prepping a decentralised social network called Bluesky that looks like a Twitter clone.
Why is Meta launching a new Instagram app?
So why is Meta bothering? After all, it already owns multiple apps that have billions of users, including Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp.
Simply put, it probably sees an opportunity to grab some of the users alienated by the changes being implemented by Musk at Twitter. The entrepreneur is locking previously free features behind a subscription; threatening to take away blue checkmarks from existing verified users including journalists who are among the most prolific tweeters on the app; and probably turning off others with his divisive politics.
A decentralised social network would also allow Meta to skirt some of the regulatory issues that have plagued it over the past decade, including questions about its monopoly over social media and digital advertising.
What’s more, Meta already has plenty of high-profile Instagram users that may relish the chance to create their own servers. It’s easy to see how celebrities, brands, and influencers could use the text-based service to share updates with their fans and foster stronger communities.
In some ways, Instagram is already heading down this path. This year, the app introduced its disappearing notes feature, which lets you share text-based messages with your friends. It also recently launched Broadcast Channels, which let creators message their fans with news updates and behind-the-scenes moments using text, photo, video, voice notes, and polls.
Instagram made subscriber chats widely available in 2022, allowing creators to share messages with people who pay for subscriptions to exclusive content.