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Threads shows signs of integrating Instagram DMs (APK teardown)

There were hints that this would happen, but now we have evidence to show it's at least moving forward with the idea.
By
January 22, 2024
Threads logo on smartphone stock photo (4)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Code strings in the latest Threads Android app suggest Threads DMs are coming soon.
  • As one would expect, the direct messaging system could just be Instagram’s, further solidifying the connections between the two platforms.
  • It’s unclear what this could mean for Threads’ promise of ActivityPub integration, which is in the testing phase.

Threads has come a long way to become the most viable X (formerly Twitter) alternative. One missing feature, though, is the ability to message people you know on Threads privately. Now, an APK teardown of the latest version of the Threads Android app shows hints that private messaging could be on the way — and it could just be Instagram’s private messaging system.

An APK teardown helps predict features that may arrive on a service in the future based on work-in-progress code. However, it is possible that such predicted features may not make it to a public release.

Before we get into the code, let’s give a little background. In November last year, Threads lead Adam Mosseri posted a thread saying that he was reluctant to build a dedicated direct messaging system into Threads, mostly because the Instagram platform already has one. The problem he foresaw, though, was “notification routing weirdness,” meaning the problem of someone DMing you on Threads and you getting a notification there and on Instagram. The alternative — building a dedicated Threads DM system — didn’t appeal to Mosseri either due to “redundant message threads.” Of the two ideas, Mosseri admitted that “neither seems great.”

With that said, in order to truly compete with X, Threads needs DMs. Thanks to an APK teardown, we now have an idea of which direction Threads might go. In the newest version of the Threads Android app (v315.0.0.29.109), we see references that Threads is at least looking at incorporating Instagram’s messaging system. Below are some strings that hint at this:

<string name="APKTOOL_DUMMYVAL_0x7f12004b">When you message people on Instagram, your most recent chats will show up here.</string>

<string name="APKTOOL_DUMMYVAL_0x7f12004c">"You don't have any chats yet"</string>

<string name="APKTOOL_DUMMYVAL_0x7f120035">Messages ·%1$s</string>

<string name="APKTOOL_DUMMYVAL_0x7f120036">Messages</string>

<string name="APKTOOL_DUMMYVAL_0x7f120046">To see your chats here, open Instagram and log in first.</string>

From the strings, it looks like Threads might include Instagram chats directly, acting as a “clone” app, as it were. We could be wrong, but the “When you message people on Instagram, your most recent chats will show up here” line seems to suggest that Threads will only incorporate parts of the Instagram messaging system. It’s possible you could start a chat or respond to chats in Threads, but seeing older chats and using more advanced features might require you to quickly jump to Instagram.

An interesting side note here is what this might mean for Threads’ ambitions to support ActivityPub, which would allow the service to be easily incorporated into other services, such as Mastodon. Instagram’s private messaging system is not a part of ActivityPub, and a version of Threads that has some federated parts (posts, replies, etc.) and then some centralized parts (DMs) would be quite strange. However, it is possible that the idea that these are “clones” of Instagram DMs would be OK for the ActivityPub crowd? There’s not enough information to go on yet.

As always, APK teardowns are not ironclad proof. It’s possible Threads is just testing this idea to see if it’s viable. We have reached out to Meta asking for clarification on this info but didn’t immediately hear back. We’ll update this article should we receive more information.