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New Instagram chat app will encourage you to share location and real-time data with ‘close friends’

Published Aug 27th, 2019 7:31AM EDT
Instagram Threads vs. WhatsApp
Image: Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock

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After killing Direct, which was supposed to be Instagram’s own messaging system, Facebook is going to unveil a new chat app that will be tied to Instagram accounts, as if the world needed more Facebook messaging apps. However, an Instagram-based chat app can play a more prominent role in Facebook’s ecosystem. Messenger and WhatsApp are already in use by hundreds of millions of people around the world, and Facebook plans to unify them into a single, private chat product. That product, however, should also incorporate Instagram’s messaging app.

The problem with Threads, which is what the app is called, is that it’ll actively encourage users to share more details with close friends, not just messages and status updates. And the list includes sensitive information like location, battery life, and even speed.

The app wants you to share all that data with your “close friends,” and may turn out to be a great feature for some users, especially for people who’d want others to know at all times where they are. At the same time, Threads might send the wrong message, teaching some Instagram users that it’s perfectly ok to share location data and other sensitive information with, basically, Facebook:

Screenshots reviewed by The Verge show an app that’s designed to promote constant, automatic sharing between users and the people on their ‘close friends’ list on Instagram. Opt in to automatic sharing, and Threads will regularly update your status, giving your friends a real-time view of information about your location, speed, and more. At the moment, Threads does not display your real-time location — instead, it might say something like a friend is ‘on the move,’ according to sources familiar with the matter.

It’s unclear how and if that location data will be shared with other Facebook services, but Facebook could benefit from hoarding even more data from users.

Threads is also Facebook’s “latest assault on Snapchat,” The Verge says, as Facebook may be looking to encourage Instagram users to spend more time inside its app rather than Snapchat. Threads, however, will not be incorporated within the Instagram experience. We’re still looking at a distinct chat app that will need to be installed independently.

When it comes to the actual messaging experience, Threads will look a lot like what’s available in Instagram right now. Friends from messages will appear in a central feed, with a green dot indicating who’s active. Stories from friends will also show up in Threads, which is hardly surprising. Also, the app will get its own camera access that will let you capture photos and videos during chats.

That said, there’s no question that a certain set of Instagram users might appreciate a newer, better, chat app, especially if it’ll work with Messenger and WhatsApp in the future. An actual release date for the new messaging app isn’t available for the time being.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.