Amid the backlash over the intrusion of algorithmic recommended content into the Instagram feed, Instagram today rolled out a slew of new features designed to make it easier for users to keep up with their real-life friends. The company is now rolling out several significant changes, most notably an addition called Notes — a feature that Meta was considering becoming a Twitter competitor, according to a recent news report. Notes allows users to update their friends with just text and emoji, adding another social update format that goes beyond the images and videos that Instagram is best known for. Other new features are also being introduced in Stories, offering new ways to share with groups.
Of all the new features announced, Instagram Notes is perhaps the most interesting as it offers a way to communicate publicly with others using only text. While this is obviously reminiscent of a platform like Twitter, the current implementation has a very different user interface. In Instagram, users can leave notes by going to the top of their inbox and then selecting followers to follow (aka mutuals) or others from their existing Close Friends list. You then type the note itself with 60 characters of text or emoji only. The note will appear at the top of friends’ inboxes for 24 hours and replies will come as DMs.
Instagram said that during the test it found that people appreciated having a way to start conversations easily.
While the format itself differs from Twitter’s real-time feed, the use case for notes might overlap somewhat, as the company described the feature as a way for users to share “what they’re up to” or solicit recommendations. Twitter is prompting users for similar input today. For example, when you compose a tweet, the app prompts you to share “What’s happening?” And like Notes, it has a limited text input limit. (Although this limit will grow strong nowsaid Twitter owner Elon Musk.)
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported last week how Meta was considering turning Instagram Notes, which has been in trials for many months, into a full-fledged Twitter rival to capitalize on the chaos at Twitter following the Elon Musk acquisition. According to the report, the company had weighed whether Notes should even be its own standalone app or another feed within Instagram. For now, however, it appears that Instagram Notes will launch unchanged.
Another set of new features is aimed at Instagram Stories.
One is an update to last year’s Add Yours feature, which encourages others to get in on your trend by sharing their own variation. Now Instagram is testing an update where you can specifically invite friends to join by tapping “Share” when you see a trend you think they’d like. This feature aims to combat one of TikTok’s bigger threats, where users replicate trends, whether it’s 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 are also sharing their own Candids. This feature is an apparent competitor to BeReal, which also locks friends’ content behind a blurry screen until you post too. And like BeReal, Candid sends out daily notification reminders. (TikTok is attempting a similar feature with its TikTok Now posts, which 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. The company tested other features earlier this year, including one called IG Candid Challenges, which is similar to what has now become Candid. It has also more shamelessly duped BeReal with a dual camera feature, which it simply calls Dual.
Instagram says users can pick up 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 to share posts and stories with friends. Content shared on a group profile will be shared with group members instead of your followers and will only be posted on the group profile, not on your own profile. This seems to respond to how many younger people are already using Instagram – for example to post content in groups for their school or on a specific topic. Previously, these accounts were only managed by select individuals with the account login who can curate content from submissions. Group profiles could lead to greater participation as it lowers 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 about a common 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 via DM and then saving it from there.
It’s essentially an extension of the Collections feature, which is more than five years old, but one that helps you build that collection with others. This can be useful, among other things, to collect travel ideas for a group trip or to share recipes.
The new features were announced by Mark Zuckerberg himself on Instagram.
The company confirmed to TechCrunch that Notes will be available for both iOS and Android users, while the rest of the features are still early-stage testing. Group Profiles will be tested in Canada, Chile and Taiwan, while the other features will be tested with a small percentage of people around the world, we’re told. The only exception is collaborative collections – in this case, if you are in the testing group and start a collection with someone who is not taking the test, and invite someone new, they will automatically be added to the test.
“Connecting with others is why people come to Instagram,” the meta-blog post reads — a sort of acknowledgment of the backlash the app has experienced from users concerned with the irrelevant and intrusive content in their Instagram feeds are dissatisfied. This culminated in Instagram actually reverting some changes after Kylie Jenner and other celebs publicly complained that the app was trying to be too similar to TikTok. The company decided to stop testing full-screen posts and reduce the amount of recommended content due to user complaints.
Refocusing on social media sharing with friends, the new set of features seems like a better move to acknowledge what people actually want from Instagram – to connect with friends, not just be entertained, like TikTok .