Instagram's standalone messaging app Threads is shutting down. The app will no longer be supported by the end of December 2021, the company confirmed to TechCrunch after reports of its impending closure began circulating via social media. Instagram is planning to alert its existing Threads users with an in-app notice beginning on November 23, which will direct them to return to Instagram to message their friends going forward.
Threads was introduced in 2019 as a companion app to Instagram shortly after the company shut down its other standalone messaging app, Direct. Instead of focusing solely on the inbox experience, Threads was built as a "camera-first" mobile messager designed to be used for posting status updates and staying in touch with those you designated as your "Close Friends" on Instagram. The app didn't gain mainstream adoption, however. But instead of iterating on the experience, Threads received little attention until a revamp last year, which made it possible to message everyone -- not just "Close Friends" -- as Direct had once offered.
Though the app had offered a way to update your Status -- or even automatically update it, based on your location -- it had been difficult to navigate between the different sections of the app until the 2020 redesign. With the update, Instagram attempted to make it easier to switch between friends' Stories, the Camera interface, and other parts of the experience. It still didn't function as a quick way to read through your messages, though, and didn't gain significant traction as a result of the changes.
The app today is ranked No. 214 in the Photo & Video category on the U.S. App Store -- an indication of its continued failure to catch on with a broader audience. It's also rated a middling 3.1 stars across 2,500 reviews as users complain about its usability, layout, missing features and glitches. To date, Threads has seen approximately 13.7 million global installs from across the App Store and Google Play, according to estimates from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
The closure comes at a time when Meta (formerly, Facebook) is revamping its messaging platforms. Following Threads' debut, Facebook made Messenger and Instagram interoperable -- meaning Instagram users could message friends on Facebook and vice versa. The updates included a host of new features as well, like ways to co-watch videos, react with emoji, change the chat color and more. Eventually, the company wants to include WhatsApp in this cross-platform messaging experience.
Of course, those changes begged the question as to where that leaves a smaller companion app like Threads.
The app's closure message was first spotted by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, and subsequently written up by smaller blogs. But Instagram had not yet confirmed the details publicly as the message wasn't yet displaying to the app's users.
The company told TechCrunch its decision to close Threads came about because many of its most-loved features -- like automatic captions and status -- have either rolled out or are now rolling out to Instagram. Instagram also felt it could better focus its messaging efforts by not splitting its attention between two different apps.
"We know that people care about connecting with their close friends, and we've seen this particularly over the past few years with the growth of messaging on Instagram. We're now focusing our efforts on enhancing how you connect with close friends on Instagram, and deprecating the Threads app," an Instagram spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. "We're bringing the fun and unique features we had on Threads to the main Instagram app, and continuing to build ways people can better connect with their close friends on Instagram. We hope this makes it easier for people to have all these features and abilities in the main app," they added.
The company says it will release new messaging features on the main Instagram app in the months ahead.
On November 23, All Threads users on both iOS and Android will begin seeing the notices that the app will shut down by December, and Instagram's Help Center will also display a notice that explains Threads will no longer be supported. When the app's support ends, existing users will be logged out and the app will be removed from the App Store and Google Play. When the app closes down at year-end, all Threads features will be available on the main Instagram app.