Facebook-owned Instagram was rumored to be working on a standalone messaging app called Threads two months ago. Now, the company has formally unveiled Threads which seeks to be used primarily by you and your closest friends. It's meant to tie into the "Close Friends" feature that launched last year on Instagram itself.
The basic concept is that once you curate your own Close Friends, the Threads app then lets you share camera-centric things such as photos and videos although you can send regular text-based messages as well. The full Instagram editing suite is available to add filters to your heart's desire.
Direct Messages are also apart of the Threads app. The primary difference is that only the people you've chosen as close friends will appear. You can also create group chats but only if everybody is in your close friends list. This could potentially set up awkward situations if you've created a group chat with two of your close friends, but who aren't close friends with each other.
One interesting component of Threads is shared statuses. This is basically a glorified away message that shares your status with your close friends. A status can either be a suggested status, a custom made status, or an "auto status". The latter will share some context about where you are with giving away where you actually are. For example, if Threads detects you're driving then it may automatically generate an "On the Move" status. That said, there's no guarantee that the context that Threads provides doesn't inadvertently give away your actual location. While auto status is opt-in, there may be some privacy concerns involved.
Ironically, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been trying to steer Facebook and its subsidiaries down a "privacy focused" future. Ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the company has been under fire regarding user privacy. Zuckerberg believes a shift to more private, encrypted communications will be the future of messaging. Threads is another step in that direction by encouraging sharing of private photos and videos only with close friends.
Threads is rolling out today on both iOS and Android.