In June 2017, Instagram announced that he had begun testing a feature he called "popular," which was an attempt to rediscover a list of friends and encourage people to participate more by moving them to a more restricted group of their followers. In response to the rise of "Finstagrams," private accounts tracked only by closest friends, the company has sought to provide users with more private sharing tools and a set of features that touched almost every part of the application.
Almost 18 months later, Instagram's change of private sharing has come, and it looks like it looks much different than in 2017. Now called "close friends," this feature will be limited to stories. And while she was stepped off from her earlier incarnation, close friends could once again transform social dynamics into Instagram.
To use a new feature, open the Stories camera to take a photo or video. When you finish the shot you will notice a new green circle with a white star. Click it and you will be brought to a list of close friends where you can add people to your inner circle. Instagram will design your friends based on the people you most interact with or complete the list using your search box. In testing, people usually added about two dozen people, says Robby Stein, lead product of Instagram.
After completing your list, you'll be able to share with your close friends by tapping the green circle every time you capture a photo or video for stories. (My product is feedback: this button is tiny and will greatly increase the body.) Once you do, your close friends will see a green circle around your story in the stack at the top of the feed. It is a visual signal that a close friend has shared something more privately with you and should protrude from standard pink-purple gradient rings.
Friends are never notified that you have added or removed them from the list. Unlike Finstagram, people can not ask to join your circle of close friends. If they're on your list, they will see green circles when you publish your close friends; if they are not, they will not. But you will still maintain "credible denial," Stein says, because most people simply assume you have not sent anything to a group of close friends.
The list of friends is not a new idea – and most social networks have failed. As I wrote in 2017:
Years ago, Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley told me that the top demand from users was the ability to see the check-in only for a small group of friends. Foursquare built this function, Crowley said, but hardly anyone used it.
Facebook, owned by Instagram, has a list of friends. But their implementation has always been somewhat clumsy and seems to be relatively underused. Lists on Twitter are different in that they are public, and the company has not improved them in many years.
"It's a hard nut, partly because social networks are dynamic," says Stein. People may be a close friend one day, and in time they are droving you away. For Instagram, this meant adding and removing people to the list had to be as socially painless as possible. The company hopes that by deleting the list of all warnings outside of the green circle, people will be able to share with smaller groups.
And I suspect that close friends will not be the only people who use "close friends". It's easy to imagine brands that create fan clubs or VIP lists where people can decide to receive additional posts. Instagram did not create any special tools to enable publishers to manage these lists, but I wonder if they will put pressure on the company in time to allow them to use the list of close friends for business purposes.
Meanwhile, I am glad that close friends have finally arrived. As more people move from Facebook to Instagram, the application has begun to face the same problem of collapsing the context that the flagship of their parent company is generating. When you send pictures together with your best friend, your former girlfriend, your colleagues, and the person you once invited to the wedding, you are likely to share less and less. That is why I find that the application reports how many people have seen my passing stories of Instagram that they are so suffering. The vast majority of these people are never interested in my stories and leaves me with the constant impression that I am just filled.
In order for Instagram to continue prosperity, it must make room for real friends to stay in touch. Close friends are a welcome step in this direction.