Amid backlash over the intrusion of algorithmic, recommended content into Instagram’s feed, Instagram today introduced a number of new features designed to make it easier for users to keep up with their real-world friends. The company is now rolling out several significant changes, including most notably an addition called Notes — a feature Meta had considered turning into a Twitter competitor, according to a recent news report. With Notes, users can update their friends using just text and emoji, adding a different format for social updates beyond the images and videos Instagram is best known for. Other new features are also rolling out to Stories and will introduce new ways to share with groups.
Of all the new features being announced, Instagram Notes is perhaps the most interesting as it adds a way to communicate with others using just text. While that’s obviously reminiscent of a platform like Twitter, the current implementation has a much different user interface. In Instagram, users can leave notes by going to the top of their inbox, then selecting the followers they follow back (aka mutuals) or others from their existing “Close Friends” list. They’ll then type out the note itself using 60 characters of just text or emoji. The note will appear at the top of friends’ inboxes for 24 hours and replies will arrive as DMs.
Instagram said that during testing it found people appreciated having a way to start conversations in a lightweight way.
So while the format itself differs from Twitter’s real-time feed, the use case for Notes could have some overlap as the company described the feature as a way for users to share “what they’re up to” or ask for recommendations. Twitter today prompts users for similar input. When you go to compose a tweet, for example, the app asks you to share “What’s happening?” And like Notes, it has a contained text input limit. (Though that limit will now grow substantially, Twitter owner Elon Musk said.)
Meanwhile, The New York Times reported last week how Meta was considering turning Instagram Notes, which has been in testing for many months, into a more fully fledged Twitter rival to capitalize on the chaos at Twitter following Elon Musk’s acquisition. The report said the company had been weighing whether Notes should even be its own standalone app or another feed inside Instagram. For the time being, however, it appears Instagram is launching Notes as is.
Another set of new features targets Instagram Stories.
One is an update to the “Add Yours” feature launched last year, which encourages others to participate in your trend by sharing their own variation. Now, Instagram is testing an update where you can specifically invite friends to participate by tapping “pass it on” when you see a trend you think they’d like. This feature is meant to combat one of the bigger threats from TikTok where users replicate trends, whether dances or skits or AI effects set to music, by posting their own take.
Instagram is also now testing “Candid,” a way for friends to share Stories that are only visible to others who also share their own Candids. This feature is an obvious competitor to BeReal, which also locks friends’ content behind a blurred screen until you also post. And like BeReal, Candid sends out daily notification reminders. (TikTok is trying a similar feature with its TikTok Now posts that appear in users’ feeds.)
This isn’t the first time Instagram has tried to take on BeReal, which has been gaining a following among younger Gen Z users. The company earlier this year tested other features including one called IG Candid Challenges, which is similar to what’s now become Candid. It also more shamelessly duped BeReal with a dual camera feature it simply called Dual.
Instagram says users can capture a Candid from the Stories camera, the multi-author Story at the top of the feed, or from the daily notification reminder.
Two other features focus on improvements to group sharing.
The new “Group Profiles” are a new type of profile on Instagram for sharing posts and stories with friends. Content shared to a Group Profile is shared with group members instead of your followers and gets posted only to the Group Profile, not your own profile. This seems to respond to how many younger people are already using Instagram — to post content to groups for their school, for example, or around some sort of theme. Before, these accounts would be managed by only select people with the account login who may curate content from submissions. Group Profiles could prompt greater participation as they reduce the barrier to posting.
Collaborative Collections are another new way to connect with a group of friends. In this case, the idea is to allow a group to connect over a shared interest by saving posts to a new “collaborative collection” in a group or via 1-to-1 direct messages (DMs). Users can add to a collaborative collection by saving a post they come across in their feed or by sharing it with a friend over DM, then saving it from there.
It’s essentially an expansion of the more than five-year-old Collections feature, but one that helps you build that collection with others. This could be useful for gathering together travel ideas for a group trip or sharing recipes, among other things.
The new features were announced by Mark Zuckerberg on Instagram itself.
The company confirmed to TechCrunch that Notes will be coming to both iOS and Android users, while the rest of the features are still early-stage tests. Group Profiles are testing in Canada, Chile and Taiwan, while the other features are in testing with a small percentage of people around the world, we’re told. The one exception is Collaborative Collections — in this case, if you’re in the test group and start a collection with someone who’s not in the test and invite someone new, they will then be automatically added to the test.
“Connecting with others is why people come to Instagram,” the Meta blog post stated — an acknowledgment, of sorts, of the backlash the app saw from users who are unhappy with the irrelevant and intrusive content in their Instagram feeds. This culminated in Instagram actually rolling back some changes after Kylie Jenner and other celebs publicly complained about the app trying to be too much like TikTok. The company decided to pause tests of full-screen posts and decrease the amount of recommended content as a result of users’ complaints.
The new set of features refocuses on social sharing with friends, and seems to be a better move in terms of acknowledging what people actually want from Instagram — to connect with friends, not to just be entertained, as on TikTok.