The Creators Of Instagram Have Released A New Social Networking App…Used When Reading The News

Could the same thing happen twice? That seems to be the topic being asked today, with the release of Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger’s latest social app. According to a story in The Verge, the team has started a new company to investigate social apps; their first product is Artefact, a bespoke news reader.

The software is not yet ready for release, but there is a waitlist for those who are interested. From what I can see, it’s essentially an updated version of Google Reader, an RSS reader programme that Google discontinued in 2013. In this case, though, Artefact is defined as a newsreader that use machine learning to tailor content to the individual user and integrates social features that encourage users to debate the articles they read with one another. (It’s true that Google Reader featured a comparable capability, but the user had to manually code the software to add RSS feeds.)

According to The Verge, at first Artefact will offer a curated selection of news items, but over time, it will offer stories that are more relevant to the individual user. There will be stories from both well-known publications like The New York Times and those from lesser-known websites. Key features like as comment moderation tools, article-specific feeds for content shared by individuals you follow, and a private messaging inbox for discussing pieces in depth will also be available.

The idea appears to share some similarities with one of Twitter’s primary functions: the discussion on breaking news. It also comes at a time when Twitter users are weighing their choices following the app’s takeover by Elon Musk, who has made a number of erratic and divisive changes to Twitter’s roadmap and regulations, driving away some of the app’s loyal users in the process.

However, as presented, Artefact doesn’t seem very novel; not only does it sound like a modern take on a Google Reader-like experience, but it would also compete with other, more established news reading apps like Flipboard, SmartNews, and Newsbreak that have personalisation components. Reading news, tailored suggestions, and user comments all in one place sounds a lot like Pocket and its newest rival Matter. Now even Substack is cashing in on Twitter’s instability by introducing a built-in chat feature for its users and content creators. ByteDance’s Toutiao has been successful with the strategy internationally, but creating a counterpart for the American market would be challenging.

Obviously, the new app would compete with the social media behemoth Meta, which Instagram’s co-founders departed in 2018. Today, billions of people use Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp as entry points to the news and information they want to know about, as well as updates from the people and organisations they care about.

Since customers already have access to built-in news applications like Apple News and Google News, Artefact may face stiff competition in a market saturated with such offerings.

In contrast to how algorithmic suggestions helped TikTok rise to prominence, the pair behind Artefact thinks recent advances in machine learning technology might help give the app an edge, as reported by The Verge.

TikTok’s For You feed may be addicting, but the video app’s meteoric rise was fueled by an annualised marketing budget of $1 billion in 2018, according to The Wall Street Journal. Even with extraordinary founders, a firm may not have the resources to compete. And in a time when younger Gen Z users are increasingly flocking to entertainment apps like TikTok to keep up with news and world events, news reading may seem like an outdated sector to pursue.

The founders have pledged to make the “subjective” and “hard” judgements about the material on their network, and the company is entering a highly polarised news industry.

However, Instagram’s creators can’t be understated in terms of the company’s success. The photo-sharing app was acquired by Facebook for a cool billion dollars in 2012, making it one of the greatest social tech deals ever.

Although a revenue sharing with publishers has been discussed, Artefact is currently in its early stages of development and has not yet been monetized. (Why do we feel like we’ve heard that before?)

Even if the app does well on its own, the creators say they plan to use the company as a proving ground for additional experimental social goods.

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