Instagram is shutting down its companion app thread at the end of the year
Instagram's separate messaging app thread is shutting down. After reports of the app's imminent closure began circulating on social media, the company confirmed to TechCrunch that the app will no longer be supported by the end of December 2021. Instagram plans to send existing Threads users an in-app notification starting Nov. 23 that directs them back to Instagram to send messages to friends.
The company launched Threads as a companion app to Instagram in 2019, shortly after Instagram shut down Direct, another standalone messaging app. Thread is a "camera-first" mobile messaging tool for Posting status updates and keeping in touch with people you designate as "close friends" on Instagram. However, the app failed to catch on with mainstream users. But, unlike in the past, Thread didn't get much attention until an update last year that allowed it to send messages to everyone -- not just "close friends" -- as Direct once offered.
While the app offers a way to update status, even automatically based on your location, it was difficult to navigate between different parts of the app until the 2020 redesign. With this update, Instagram is trying to make it easier to switch between friends' stories, the camera interface, and other parts of the experience. Still, it didn't work as a way to read information quickly, nor did it gain significant traction as a result of these changes.
Today, the app is ranked 214th in the PHOTOS and videos category in the US App Store, indicating that it has failed to reach a wider audience. It also scored 3.1 stars out of 2,500 reviews, as users complained about its usability, layout, missing features, and glitches. To date, Thread has been installed about 13.7 million times on the App Store and Google Play worldwide, according to App intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
When the company closed, Meta(formerly Facebook) was in the process of revamping its messaging platform. After Threads made its debut, Facebook made Messenger and Instagram interoperable -- meaning Instagram users could send messages to friends on Facebook and vice versa. The updates also include a host of new features, such as co-viewing videos, reacting with emojis, and changing chat colors. Eventually, the company hopes to incorporate WhatsApp into this cross-platform messaging experience.
The problem with these changes, of course, is that what's left are small companion applications like Threads.
The app's shutdown message was first discovered by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi and later reported by smaller blogs. But Instagram has not publicly confirmed those details because the message has not yet been shown to the app's users.
The company told TechCrunch that the decision to turn off threads was made because many of the most popular features -- like automatic captioning and statuses -- have been rolled out or are being rolled out to Instagram. Instagram also believes it can better focus on messaging by not splitting its attention between two different apps.
"We know that people are concerned about connecting with close friends, and we've seen that in the last few years, especially with the growth of messaging on Instagram. We are now working on improving the way users can connect with their friends on Instagram, against using the Threads app."We're bringing the fun and unique features of Threads to the main Instagram app and continuing to build ways people can better connect with their friends on Instagram. We hope this will make it easier for people to have all these features and capabilities in the main app."
The company said it would release the new messaging feature on Instagram's main app in the next few months.
On November 23, all Threads users on iOS and Android will start seeing notifications that the app will be shut down in December, and Instagram's help center will also display a notification explaining that Threads will no longer be supported. When support for the appends, existing users will log out and the app will be removed from the App Store and Google Play. When the app shuts down at the end of the year, all threads' functionality will be available on the main Instagram app.