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Instagram Is Taking Another Messaging Shot at Snap

By Evan Niu, CFA – Aug 27, 2019 at 1:57PM

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Threads will automatically share information with close friends in an effort to bolster engagement.

At its core, Snap (SNAP -1.34%) has always billed Snapchat as a messaging platform, where users share photos and videos as a way to communicate. For example, in a lengthy memo penned by CEO Evan Spiegel that leaked last year, the phrase "fastest way to communicate" appears 25 times. "We have also observed that communicating visually with real friends on Snapchat provides long-term value for our community," Spiegel added on the earnings call last month.

In recent years, Facebook's (META -1.69%) Instagram subsidiary has been demolishing Snapchat primarily by replicating the smaller company's most popular features, most notably -- and successfully -- with Stories. Instagram is preparing to take another messaging shot at Snap.

Person using phone with Facebook Likes and Hearts coming out of it

Image source: Getty Images.

Try, try again

The Verge reports that Instagram is working on a new messaging app known as Threads that is intended to encourage frequent sharing with close friends and family. Instagram had previously tested a stand-alone messaging app called Direct, which it killed off earlier this year following a public beta, in part because users didn't like having to switch between apps to access different features on the platform.

While Threads will still be a stand-alone app designed to complement the Instagram app, it will ask users for permission to automatically share all sorts of data with close connections, such as approximate location data and battery life, as well as traditional communications like texts, photos, and videos. (What could go wrong?) Facebook is currently testing out Threads internally, according to the report.

Communication is the fundamental driver for Snapchat engagement, and the platform is more popular within younger demographics like users ages 13 to 34 than Facebook or Instagram, according to Spiegel. Instagram is hoping to poach those eyeballs. Threads may or may not launch to the broader public, depending on how the internal test goes.  

The bigger messaging picture

More broadly, Facebook is pinning the future of its core platforms on private messaging. "Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication," CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a manifesto published in March. Improving privacy will entail reducing permanence and enabling end-to-end encryption, in Zuck's view.

At the same time, His Zuckness has laid out a plan to integrate all of its messaging platforms together into one unified service. The idea isn't without controversy: Disagreements over the direction of that strategy even reportedly contributed to the departure of Chief Product Officer Chris Cox and WhatsApp head Chris Daniels earlier this year. Facebook may still be experimenting with new ways for users to communicate, and it will probably find its footing as long as its number of messaging services never approaches Google's mess.

Check out "20 of the Top Stocks to Buy in 2019 (Including the 2 Every Investor Should Own)."

Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Evan Niu, CFA owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends GOOG, GOOGL, and Facebook. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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