Instagram, the internet’s largest repository for pictures of well-lit food and ground central for narcissistic personality disorders, has reportedly been hard at work creating a text-based application to rival Twitter. The news comes from Lia Haberman who, in her SubStack newsletter ICYMI, has detailed the project known internally as P92, Project 92, or ‘Barcelona’ after secret calls between Meta and select creators came to light.
Tagged as “Instagram for your thoughts,” the new text-based app will offer seemingly the exact same functionality as Twitter — in fact, it looks almost exactly like Twitter. Except it won’t be owned by a billionaire of dubious popularity. Oh, wait. Yes, it will be.
It's a shame the name Telegram is already taken
According to Haberman, the new text-based platform will have its own benefits, one of which being a 500-character post limit. Which, while bigger than Twitter’s 280-character limit base offering, pales in size next to Twitter Blue’s current 10,000-character limitations — and even when compared to Instagram’s own 2,200-character limit on picture captions.
The character cap is likely related to the new app’s claimed compatibility with Mastodon, another Twitter competitor that sprang to prominence during Elon Musk’s colonization of the bird-fronted social media site. This would allow users on other decentralized Mastodon-based apps to find and interact with both your new profile and content without requiring an Instagram account.
Hitting the ground running
Your profile, including handle, bio, and verification, will carry over from Instagram allowing you to maintain the same followers within the new app. This would let users instantly network with familiar faces in the new format, retaining any audience and popularity they may have previously gained without all of that “looking like an egg and shouting into the black heart of the digital abyss until somebody stumbles upon you by happenchance and follows you out of pity” hassle that most new social network users tend to suffer from. Or maybe that’s just me.
Same old, same old?
Other features you’re likely to see on Instagram’s new app include the ability to attach links, photos, and videos up to 5 minutes in length. Beyond this, the functionality of the app will seemingly be business as usual, feeds will showcase followers and recommended content, and you can like, reply and report content you wish to engage with.
When it comes to creator controls and safety the new app will also feature 2FA, and the ability to control replies to posts, mentions and block or report spam. Instagram familiars will also be able to carry over their block list and any hidden words they’ve selected, and all accounts will be subject to the same Instagram community guidelines currently in place.
Twitter, a once unflappable landmark on the internet, appears to be in choppy waters as of late. And by choppy waters, I mean we haven’t seen waves of this magnitude in the digital space since Google pointed the finger at Ask Jeeves and proclaimed “The butler did it” before he was toted off in cuffs never to be seen from again.
Musk’s social media takeover has seen the platform suffer less of a revolutionary-styled beheading and more of a slow and steady bleed in terms of popularity. The blood in the water is causing the competition to circle like hungry sharks.
However, while a minority of users are kicking up a big stink about the platform’s current standing, the good ship Twitter remains afloat — and has turned an operating loss of hundreds of millions towards operating at a profit at some point in 2023.
This could be as much of a way for Meta to keep Instagram users within its own network of apps just as much as it would be to poach users from a rival. The expected great exodus of users to Mastodon or Bluesky wasn’t quite as impactful as many suspected, especially when these apps can’t seem to offer a definitive hook to lure people away from what they’ve become familiar and accustomed to over the last 16 years that Twitter has been freely available.
While nothing is set in stone, Haberman believes that parent company Meta is looking to push the new app towards a release in late June — meaning we won’t have long to see if Instagram’s text-based platform direction leads to something new and worthwhile, or treads the same old ground that leads to the stagnant swamp of failed clones we’ve seen in recent times.
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Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.