Instagram now supports text updates with the launch of Notes, and is adding other new sharing features
Amid the backlash over the intrusion of algorithmic recommended content into the Instagram feed, Instagram today introduced a number of new features designed to make it easier for users to keep up with their friends in the real world. The company is now rolling out several significant changes, including in particular an addition called Notes — a feature that Meta has considered turning into a competitor to Twitter, according to a recent news report. With Notes, users can update their friends using just text and emoji, and add a different format for social updates beyond the photos and videos that Instagram is known for. Other new features are also being rolled out to Stories that will introduce new ways to share with Groups.
Of all the new features announced, Instagram Notes is perhaps the most interesting because it adds a way to communicate with others publicly, using only text. While this is clearly reminiscent of a platform like Twitter, the current app has a much different user interface. On Instagram, users can leave feedback by going to the top of their inbox, then selecting the followers they follow (aka subscribers) or others from their existing “close friends” list. They will then write the same note using only 60 characters of text or emoji. The note will appear at the top of your friends’ inbox for 24 hours, and replies will arrive as direct messages.
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 Notes use case may overlap a bit as the company has described the feature as a way for users to share “what they’re planning” or ask for recommendations. Twitter is prompting users today for similar input. When you go to write a tweet, for example, the app asks you to share a “What’s going on?” And like Notes, it has a limit for inline text entry. (Although this limit will Now growing exponentiallyTwitter owner Elon Musk said.)
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported last week how Meta was considering turning Instagram Notes, which had been in testing for several months, into a more complete Twitter competitor to take advantage of Twitter’s post-Elon Musk takeover chaos. The report said the company was considering whether Notes should be its own standalone app or another feed within Instagram. However, for now, Instagram appears to be running Notes as is.
Another set of new features is aimed at Instagram Stories.
One is an update to the Add You feature that launched last year, which encourages others to get in on your trend by sharing their skins. Now, Instagram is testing an update where you can specifically invite friends to share by tapping “pass it” when you see a trend you think they’ll like. The feature aims to combat one of the biggest threats from TikTok where users replicate trends, be it dances, skits, or AI effects set to music, by posting their own tracks.
Instagram is also now testing “Candid,” a way for friends to share Stories that are only visible to others who also share their Candid profiles. The feature is a clear competitor to BeReal, which also locks friends’ content behind a blurred screen until you post it too. And just like BeReal, Candid sends daily notification alerts. (TikTok is trying a similar feature with TikTok Now posts that appear in users’ feeds.)
This isn’t the first time Instagram has tried to take on BeReal, which is gaining a following among younger Gen Z users. Earlier this year the company tested other features including one called IG Candid Challenges, which is similar to what is now candid. It’s also shamelessly fooled BeReal with its dual-camera feature simply dubbed Dual.
Instagram says users can take a photo of Candid from the Stories camera, the multiple author story at the top of the feed, or from the daily notification reminder.
Two other features focus on group sharing improvements.
The new Group Profiles are a new type of profile on Instagram for sharing posts and stories with friends. Content shared on a group profile is shared with group members rather than with your followers and is only posted to the group profile, not your own. This seems to respond to how many young people are already using Instagram – to post content to groups for their school, for example, or about some sort of topic. Prior to this, these accounts were only managed by specific people with account login information who might curate content from submissions. Group profiles can lead to greater engagement because it lowers the barrier to posting.
Collaborative groups are another new way to connect with a group of friends. In this case, the idea is to allow the group to communicate over a shared interest by saving posts to a new “collaborative group” in a group or via 1-to-1 direct messages (DMs). Users can add to a collaborative group by saving a post they come across to their feed or by sharing it with a friend via DM, then saving it from there.
It’s basically an expansion of the Groups feature that’s more than five years old, but one that helps you build that group with others. This can be useful for bringing 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 iOS and Android users, while the rest of the features are still early-stage tests. Group profiles are being tested in Canada, Chile and Taiwan, while other features are being tested with a small percentage of people around the world, we’re told. The only exception is co-op groups – in this case, if you’re in the test group and start a group with someone who isn’t in the test and invite someone new, they’ll automatically be added to the test.
The Meta blog post states that “connecting with others is why people come to Instagram” — an acknowledgment, of sorts, of the backlash the app has seen from users unhappy with irrelevant content and intrusions into their Instagram feeds. This culminated in Instagram already reversing some changes after Kylie Jenner and other celebrities publicly complained that the app was trying to be too much like TikTok. The company decided to discontinue full-screen post tests and reduce the amount of recommended content as a result of user complaints.
The new set of features refocuses on social sharing with friends, and seems like a better move in terms of acknowledging what people really want from Instagram — to connect with friends, not to entertain others, as in TikTok.
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