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Instagram's companion app 'Threads' focuses on your closest friends

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What is Threads? With the Instagram Direct messaging app having shut down earlier this year, and the Instagram itself having to compete with a resurgent – or, at least, persistent – Snapchat, it looks like Threads is gunning to become the next must-use messaging app for your phone.

According to a report by The Verge (opens in new tab), Threads will be the next spin-off app from the Instagram social network, giving users another platform for conversations with their closest friends.

With a focus on Instagram users' close friends list – essentially an inner circle for more personal or priority stories and posts – Threads will no doubt be looking to keep people within the Facebook / Instagram / WhatsApp monopoly of messaging apps. With an all-in-one chat service coming down the line, Threads may just be a quick pit-stop on the way to full brand synergy, but in the meantime, it will likely be something to distract us on our commute.

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What's notable about the report is the kinds of data that will be apparently be shared with your close friends list automatically – including not only your location, but also your phone's speed and battery life, meaning your digital pals will know when you don't have enough juice to reply to them, or if you just can't be bothered.

While the data sharing is being framed as a social feature, it also inevitably serves as a financial one: free social networks like Facebook and Instagram trade on user data for targeted advertising, which, in the case of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, clearly doesn't always turn out well for consumers.

With messaging apps already existing like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp (remember texts?), Threads will be entering a saturated market – and will have to make a strong case for users to be switching in and out of the primary Instagram app, too. But if it can offer a distinct enough proposition, it may be a name we hear a lot more of in the coming months.

Henry is a freelance technology journalist. Before going freelance, he spent more than three years at TechRadar reporting on TVs, projectors and smart speakers as the website's Home Cinema Editor – and has been interviewed live on both BBC World News and Channel News Asia, discussing the future of transport and 4K resolution televisions respectively. As a graduate of English Literature and persistent theatre enthusiast, he'll usually be found forcing Shakespeare puns into his technology articles, which he thinks is what the Bard would have wanted. Bylines also include Edge, T3, and Little White Lies.