Instagram has unveiled a new messaging app called Threads, which has striking similarities to Snapchat, as the Facebook-owned social media platform continues its attempts to appeal to younger internet users.
The new camera-based messaging app allows users to stay connected to a select group of friends, and share automatic status updates with them based on a user’s movements throughout the day.
Instagram says that feature shares small pieces of context with friends but will not give away their exact location, can only be seen by selected contacts and is opt-in.
Instagram has previously been accused of aggressively targeting Snapchat and its popularity with teenage smartphone users – a demographic with which Snapchat remains one of the most commonly used social media platforms.
The new app will begin to roll out globally this week.
The automatic status updates can be chosen from a list of pre-made options – for example “studying” or “on the move”, or can be created and personalised by the user to express what they are currently doing.
The standalone app is a companion to the main Instagram service, the firm said, and is based on the Close Friends feature of Instagram – a select list of contacts users can edit and then share content directly with.
The Facebook-owned company confirmed Threads users will only be able to message those contacts on their Close Friends list.
The rest of an account’s messaging content will continue to appear in the Instagram Direct section of the main Instagram app, the platform confirmed.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has previously said that private messaging is a key part of the company’s future.
However, the company has faced repeated suggestions it has targeted Snapchat when introducing new features.
The social networking giant and its wider family of apps – which also includes WhatsApp – introduced Stories, the chronological collection of pictures and videos which appear on user’s profile for 24 hours, after Snapchat had achieved success with the format.
Snapchat has about 203 million active users, while Instagram has more than a billion active users.