Last year, Instagram announced it was ending support for its standalone mobile messaging app known as Direct, which had allowed users to quickly create and share messages with friends. Shortly thereafter, the company launched Threads, a new messaging app focused on status updates and communication with only those you identified in Instagram as your “Close Friends.” Now, these two messaging concepts are merging. With the latest update to Threads, Instagram is again offering the full inbox experience, it says.
The changes were noted in the latest app update and were soon spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra and noted reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong — who both keep a close eye on changes to popular social apps.
In the latest update, Threads will now present a two-tabbed inbox.
In the “Close Friends” section, you can continue to message with your most frequent contacts, as before. The new second tab, “Everyone Else” allows access to your larger Instagram inbox. The app will continue to prioritize the “Close Friends” tab, and your status will continue to only be visible to Close Friends as well.
Instagram also tells us that, by default, Threads users will continue to only receive notifications for their Close Friends. But this can now be adjusted in the app’s Settings if you want to receive notifications for all messages instead.
What’s interesting is that these changes are rolling out so closely following a major update to Instagram’s messaging platform.
Only last week, Facebook introduced cross-app communication between Messenger and Instagram, alongside other features.
That update allows Instagram users to opt to upgrade to a new messaging experience that includes the ability to change chat colors, react with any emoji, watch videos together, set messages to disappear and more. These “fun” features serve as a way to entice users to agree to the update, which then locks users further inside the Facebook universe as it opens up cross-platform messaging. That means upgraded users can use Instagram to message their Facebook friends.
With the changes to Threads, one has to wonder if Facebook is now envisioning the standalone chat app as another potential entry point into its larger messaging platform.
Instagram says that’s not the case today.
“Cross-app communication is an opt-in update for people using Instagram, and will not be enabled for Threads,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch.
That doesn’t mean Threads won’t be updated to later offer some of the other changes that Instagram users can now take advantage of, if they choose to upgrade their messaging experience.
In fact, we understand that Instagram is considering bringing some of those new features over to Threads in the future. There’s no exact timeframe for this project at this point, though.
Presumably, this would mean connecting the Threads app on the backend to the newly built messaging infrastructure. If that’s true, even if Facebook chose to keep cross-app communication an Instagram-only (and Messenger-only) experience, it would still be tying in another core app, Threads, to the new messaging platform. And this, in turn, could make it harder to unspool the apps in the case that Facebook is forced to break up its business, if regulators were to declare it a monopoly.
It’s not clear, however, if Threads has yet been connected to that infrastructure or if it will further down the road. But it’s worth keeping an eye on.
The Threads update is live now.