Meta Testing Decentralized Instagram App as Rival to Twitter

Details are emerging about the text-based Twitter competitor being developed by Meta Platforms. What is being referred to internally as “Instagram’s new text-based app for conversations” will offer a feed with text posts of up to 500 characters that are capable of attaching links, photos, and videos. The move comes as alternatives including Bluesky, Cohost, Hive, Mastodon and Substack try to gain market share by luring disaffected Twitter users to their platforms. Instagram’s entry in progress — codenamed “P92,” and alternately referred to as “Barcelona” — may soon be interoperable with all of them.

As first reported by Lia Haberman’s Substack newsletter ICYMI, users will be able to sign in with their Instagram username and password, allowing them to then “sync up” with existing followers leveraging their Instagram handle, bio and verification.

“Users on other apps will be able search for, follow and interact with your profile and content,” Haberman writes from information gleaned from what is being described as a leaked marketing slide.

The Verge reports that Meta’s in-development app “looks pretty much like if you mixed Instagram and Twitter together, based on two screenshots included in the leaked marketing slide” and says Meta plans to “have some good moderation controls from the start, ‘equipping you with settings to control who can reply to you and mention your account.’”

Accounts blocked on Instagram will reportedly carry over, which could be a big incentive for Twitter users disenchanted with new owner Elon Musk’s self-professed policy of free-speech absolutism, which some say has exacerbated user conflict since he took over the platform in October.

A significant new aspect of the new Instagram text app is what The Verge calls “an element of decentralization,” evidenced by language on the marketing slide reportedly stating that “soon, our app will be compatible with certain other apps like Mastodon” and adding that “users on these other apps will be able to search for, follow and interact with your profile and content if you’re public, or if you’re private and approve them as followers.”

Presumably, The Verge reports, “compatibility will come through ActivityPub, which Meta has been exploring alongside other tech companies.”

Reports of P92 began disseminating in March. Deadline says Instagram’s upcoming Twitter clone is “already being tested out,” and quotes incoming Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino acknowledged the impending Meta competition by tweeting “Game on!”

Last month, Musk reportedly got into what Quartz described as an “Internet flame war” with Substack when it debuted a product “too similar to Twitter for his liking.”

Twitter CEO Linda Yaccarino Is Teetering on the Glass Cliff, Wired, 5/22/23

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