- Facebook released a mobile app called Threads from Instagram that lets people stay in touch with a small group of friends by automatically sharing videos and status updates, per a blog post. The camera-focused messaging app is Facebook's latest effort to clone features of longtime rival Snapchat.
- The introduction of Threads follows last year's addition of a "Close Friends" feature on Instagram that let users share more personal moments with a smaller circle of contacts. Instagram users who don't have a list of close friends can create one after downloading Threads, according to the blog post.
- In addition to Threads, Instagram is allowing some brands to sell products through Instagram augmented reality (AR) try-ons. The initial partners include cosmetics companies MAC and Nars and eyewear brands Warby Parker and Ray-Ban, with more brands expected over time, Mashable reported.
Threads from Instagram aims to give mobile users a more privacy-focused experience than Facebook's other platforms that urge users to connect with everyone in their contact lists. It's not clear if or when Facebook will start selling ad insertions in the new app. For now, it appears that Facebook is mostly focused on the user experience before monetizing Threads with advertising, e-commerce and person-to-person payments.
It remains to be seen how many people will download yet another social media app, but Facebook has used its broad reach to drive growth for Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, which consistently rank among the most downloaded worldwide. Facebook's apps have more than 2.7 billion monthly users, per the company's last quarterly report.
Threads can be seen as another effort by Facebook to copy the features of rival Snapchat, the Snap-owned app popular among U.S. teens. Facebook describes Threads as a "camera-first" messaging app, suggesting a direct comparison with Snapchat, even though there are some distinctions.
Snapchat mostly focuses on one-to-one messaging among users, while its "My Story" feature lets users group images and videos into a single post that's shared with all their friends for 24 hours. Snapchat also lets users create smaller friend groups for stories.
Previously, Facebook and Instagram cloned the Snapchat stories feature to keep people engaged on its platforms. The announcement of Threads led to a sell-off in Snap's stock, indicating concerns that the new app may hurt usage of Snapchat.
Threads' biggest distinction from Snapchat is its "status" feature that shows current activities, and whether users are available to chat. The feature also is more descriptive than Facebook's other apps. Instagram and Facebook denote whether other users are currently active with a green dot that appears inside a profile picture, and a timestamp to indicate when someone last used the app.
Separately, the rollout of a feature that allows brands to sell their products through AR try-ons is another effort by Instagram to open the platform to marketers. The AR try-on ability builds on the closed beta rollout of Checkout on Instagram, a new feature that lets mobile users complete and track purchases without having to leave the app. Last summer, fashion brand Michael Kors became the first advertiser to test out Facebook's AR ads in the news feed.