Instagram confirms test of ‘Flipside,’ a feature that turns ‘finstas’ into an official product

Instagram head Adam Mosseri confirmed the company is testing a feature called Flipside — an experiment that would essentially turn users’ “finstas” — their separate, private and more personal accounts — into a new product feature. Flipside was first spotted in development last year, but Instagram said it was only an internal prototype at the time. Now, the company will begin testing the feature with users to see how they respond, Mosseri said.

Still, the exec cautioned that a test doesn’t mean a feature will launch publicly. That remains to be seen.

“We’re not even sure we’ll launch it on Instagram,” Mosseri wrote on Threads on Friday, in response to a user who asked for a version of Flipside for Instagram’s Threads app instead. “On one hand it feels good to create a clear space that feels more private,” he continued. “On the other, it’s yet another way to reach a smaller audience on top of secondary accounts and Close Friends. We’ll see how people respond in the test, and iterate forward,” Mosseri added.

Meta additionally confirmed to TechCrunch that the feature is in testing.

“We’re always working on new ways to help people connect with friends on Instagram,” a spokesperson told us. “We heard people want more options for sharing in private spaces, so are excited to start testing a new feature where you can create a custom profile, including a custom name, bio and photo and share exclusive content with a smaller group of followers,” they added.

Though long-used among Instagram’s younger demographics, finstas entered the broader public conversation in 2021 when Senator Richard Blumenthal pressed a Meta exec during a congressional hearing about whether the company would “commit to ending finsta.” The flub was another example of how those who are in the position of regulating technology don’t fully understand how it works. Finstas, as Meta’s head of safety Antigone Davis tried to explain at the same, are not an Instagram feature. Instead, they’re a private account that’s intended for Close Friends only — and a way to avoid parental oversight, at times.

While Blumenthal was mixed up about the specifics, the larger question remains about how easy it is for kids to set up separate accounts outside of the reach of Instagram’s built-in parental controls. By turning the “finsta” into a feature associated with a user’s main account — by description, you would swipe down on a profile to be “flipped” to the other, more private “side” — Instagram would have a better grasp on the age of the user creating the separate account, as it would tie the existing profile to the new, more private one. That means Instagram could leverage its age-verification tools to classify users via their main account, and then have those settings translated to their associated Flipside or finsta.

TechCrunch previously covered Flipside when it was spotted in development in December by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who shared screenshots of the feature in action. In the images, Instagram explained that Flipside refers to “a new space just for you and your friends” where “only the people you choose can see this side of your profile and what you share here.”

More recently, social media consultant Matt Navarra shared images of Flipside, claiming the feature has now been spotted in the wild.

 

Post by @mattnavarra
View on Threads

 

The feature would build on other developments Instagram has rolled out for more personal and private sharing, including the Close Friends option for Instagram Stories, which allows your posts to be visible only to a pre-designated group of friends on the app. Last fall, Instagram also began testing an option that would allow users to share their Instagram Feed posts with Close Friends as well — a possible alternative to Flipside. At one time, the company also dabbled with group chatting in an app known as Threads (which is not the current social network by the same name). That app was shut down in 2021, however.

Meta has not yet said where Flipside is being tested or on which platforms, but users are sharing their thoughts about the product on Threads and X, with some warming to the idea of an easier way to manage a finsta with others more cautious or with concerns over monetization and child safety matters.

The timing of Mosseri’s confirmation of the Flipside test is notable, given that the company is among those due to address Congress in a hearing this week that will focus on how Big Tech companies are protecting kids online.

Updated, 1/29/24, 12:57 PM ET with Meta comment