Meta’s Twitter competitor is moving closer to launch, with selected creators now being briefed on how Instagram’s text-based app – tentatively titled ‘Barcelona’ – will function.
As you can see in these images, shared by ICYMI’s Lia Haberman, the new app is essentially a simplified version of Twitter, more aligned with a chat-based feed.
That’s deliberate, because over the last few years, more conversation on IG has switched to DMs, with the main feed becoming a discovery platform, as users move away from public posting activity.
With this in mind, the new, separate app is designed to be like a giant group chat that anybody can join – which is similar to Twitter, in concept, but with a more Instagram-specific tilt.
In terms of specifics, users will be able to sign onto the app using their Instagram credentials, including their username, while also being able to sync up their IG followers. Users will be able to post text updates of up to 500 characters and able to add links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length.
And, as you can see in the image of the main feed (the right screenshot above), in addition to being able to reply to posts in-stream, you’ll also be able to like, reply and re-post, like re-tweeting in the app.
The new app is being built on a decentralized back-end, which is Meta’s first attempt at building a decentralized network, which it says will make your profile compatible with other decentralized systems.
As per Meta:
“Users on apps [like Mastodon] will be able to search for, follow and interact with your profile and your content if you’re public, or if you’re private and approve them as followers. This allows you to reach new audiences with no added work. In addition, creators may be eligible to be recommended to people who don’t yet follow them.”
So while it’s going to be seen as a Twitter competitor – which, in some ways, it is – the project is also Meta’s attempt to better align with evolving usage trends, while also experimenting with decentralization, and the capacity for a more open system to better serve social media users, on various fronts.
As noted, Meta has reportedly been briefing creators on the app, while Matt Navarra also notes that various celebrities and high profile sports stars are also being offered early access to the platform, ahead of a public release.
DM engagement has become a key focus for IG, based on usage shifts that Meta is seeing in the app.
Friends post a lot more to stories and send a lot more DMs than they post to Feed. If you want to make sure you never miss a feed post from a friend, add them to your favorites and they’ll show up at the top.
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) July 26, 2022
Instagram has already released several updates to lean into this trend, including Broadcast Channels, its one-to-many messaging feature, and ‘Notes’, which enables users to share a conversation prompt in a Stories-like bubble above your Direct inbox.
A dedicated chat app is the next progression, and it could be that this does indeed offer serious competition for Twitter, whether that’s the primary intent of the project or not.
When you also consider that Instagram has over a billion daily active users, versus Twitter’s 253 million, and that Meta’s looking to make it as easy as possible for these users to veer across to the new app, that could definitely see it become a very big Twitter-like stream very fast, which may see more Twitter cast-offs spending more time in this new experience.
Thus far, Twitter activity has seemingly remained strong, despite some user objections to Musk’s changes at the app, because the alternatives simply aren’t as engaging, and will take too much effort in re-establishing your following graph.
But with this new app enabling you to port your IG audience across, that could be another big tick in its favor, and if Meta can make it as easy as possible to use, without some of the headaches that have come with other decentralized apps, it could deal a significant blow to Twitter, by providing a far more viable alternative for those looking for another, similar place to be.
Elon has repeatedly told those that are upset with his changes to go someplace else. Maybe now, more actually will, which could also see more advertiser attention shifting, if, eventually, Meta looks to also monetize the app (ads will not be in the initial version).
It’s an interesting experiment either way, which could have a big impact when it launches, reportedly, next month.