Instagram today revealed a slew of new features aimed at making it easier for users to stay in touch with their offline contacts, following backlash over the introduction of algorithmic, recommended content into the Instagram feed. The company is now adopting a number of significant enhancements, most notably the addition of Notes, which, according to a recent press report, Meta had considered developing into a competitor to Twitter. Users on Notes can only update their friends with text and emoji, providing an alternate social update format to Instagram’s most popular image and video forms. Other changes to Stories are on the way, including additional group sharing options.
Instagram Notes is probably the most exciting of the newly unveiled features because it allows individuals to publicly communicate each other. Despite the obvious similarity to a site like Twitter, the present implementation features a completely separate user experience. People can comment on Instagram by going to the top of their inbox, selecting the persons they follow back (also known as mutuals), and then selecting additional users from their current “Close Friends” list. The note will then be written with only 60 text or emoji characters. The note will stay at the top of friends’ inboxes for 24 hours, and any answers will be in the form of DMs.
Instagram claimed that during testing, it realized that consumers enjoyed having a straightforward way to start conversations.
Despite the fact that the Notes format differs from Twitter’s real-time feed, the company promoted the tool as a way for users to express “what they’re up to” or request recommendations, so there may be some overlap in use cases. Twitter users now are asked for similar feedback. When you go to create a tweet, for example, the app encourages you to share “What’s happening?” It, too, has a limited text input limit, similar to Notes. (However, Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter, has stated that the restriction will now be greatly increased.)
To capitalize on the uproar caused by Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, The New York Times reported last week that Meta was considering making Instagram Notes, which has been in development for months, a more serious Twitter rival. The company had been discussing whether Notes should be a standalone app or just another Instagram feed, according to the article. However, it appears that Instagram will continue to release Notes in their existing form for the time being.
Another set of new features focuses on Instagram Stories.
The first is an enhancement to the “Add Yours” tool, which was launched last year and enables others to join your trend by offering their own variation. Instagram is now testing a feature that will allow users to expressly encourage others to participate by clicking “pass it on” when they see a trend that they think others might be interested in. TikTok users pose one of the platform’s most significant problems by providing their own interpretations of trends, whether through dances, skits, or AI effects paired to music.
Instagram is now testing “Candid,” a feature that allows friends to share Stories with others, but only those who also share Candids may see them. BeReal, which likewise hides your friends’ content behind a fuzzy screen until you publish, is clearly competing with this feature. Candid, like BeReal, offers daily notification reminders. TikTok is pursuing a similar concept with its posts that appear in users’ feeds.
Instagram has previously made an attempt to compete with BeReal, which is gaining popularity among younger Gen Z users. Earlier this year, the company tested multiple services, including one similar to Candid called IG Candid Challenges. It also misled BeReal even more openly with a dual camera feature termed Dual.
According to Instagram, users can take a Candid photo using the Stories camera, the multi-author Story at the top of the feed, or the daily notification reminder.
Two more features focus on improving group sharing.
Instagram’s new “Group Profiles” profile type allows users to share stories and posts with their friends. Content shared to a group profile is solely uploaded to the group profile and not to your individual profile, rather than being shared with your followers. This appears to be a response to the vast number of young people who currently use Instagram to contribute information to school groups or to discuss a certain issue. Previously, only a few users with account logins could manage these accounts and curate content from submissions. Because they make posting easier, group profiles may encourage more participation.
Collaborative Collections is another novel way to communicate with a group of pals. The purpose in this scenario is to enable a group to bond over a common interest by storing postings to a brand-new “collaborative collection” in a group or through 1-to-1 direct communications (DMs). Users can create a collaborative collection by saving a post they see in their feed or sharing it with a friend via DM and then saving it from there.
It’s simply an expansion of the more than five-year-old Collections feature, but it lets you cooperate with others to build your collection. This can be useful for gathering vacation ideas for a group adventure or swapping recipes, among other things.
Mark Zuckerberg made the announcements regarding the new Instagram features.
While the rest of the capabilities are still in the early stages of testing, the company informed TechCrunch that Notes will be available to iOS and Android consumers. Group Profiles are apparently being tested in Canada, Chile, and Taiwan, whereas the other features are reportedly being tested with a small fraction of the global population. The only exception is Collaborative Collections; in this case, if you’re a participant in the test group and build a collection with a participant who isn’t a participant in the test and invite a new member, that person will be automatically included in the test.
The Meta blog post stated that “Connecting with others is why people come to Instagram,” as an acknowledgement of the negative feedback the program received from users who were irritated by the intrusive and irrelevant content in their Instagram feeds. In the end, Instagram reverted certain changes when Kylie Jenner and other celebrities publicly chastised the platform for imitating TikTok too closely. In response to user feedback, the company decided to suspend full-screen posting tests and restrict the amount of recommended material.
In terms of realizing what users truly want from Instagram — to connect with friends rather than simply be entertained, as on TikTok — the new set of features, which refocus on social sharing with friends, appears to be a wiser move.