Instagram spotted developing a customizable ‘AI friend’

Instagram is developing a “Friend Map” feature, a Meta spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch on Monday. The opt-in feature, which is similar to Snapchat’s Snap Map, would allow users to see their friends’ locations in real time. The company says the feature is an internal prototype and is not being tested externally. The feature was first spotted by reverse engineer Alessandro Paluzzi, who often discovers social media features in development ahead of their official launch.

If Instagram plans to officially launch the Friend Map, it would be copying yet another popular feature from Snapchat, after cloning the app’s core Stories functionality back in 2016. Instagram would also be coming for Apple and its “Find My” map feature that lets users see where their friends and family are currently located. With this new feature, Instagram would be giving its users another reason to spend more time on its app, and less on other companies’ services.

Instagram also has an opportunity to appeal to people who were fans of Zenly, a social map app that Snap acquired and then shut down last year.

According to screenshots posted on Threads by Paluzzi, Instagram’s Friend Map would allow users to choose who can see their location. The screenshots also indicate that location data would be end-to-end encrypted. You could choose to share your location with followers who follow you back, your “Close Friends” list or no one at all. The map would also feature a “Ghost Mode” setting that would hide your last active location.


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The Friend Map would allow users to leave short messages, or “Notes,” on the map for others to see. Instagram Notes are currently the short messages that appear at the top of your direct messaging feed, but if the Friend Map rolls out, users would have the option to post these short updates on the map. The Notes functionality on the map could be used to do things like notify your friends about a fun pop-up shop you came across or a new restaurant that you’re currently eating at.

The news comes as Instagram has been working to enhance its in-app map offering. In late 2022, the company introduced a searchable map experience that allowed users to explore popular tagged locations around them and filter location results by specific categories including restaurants, cafes and beauty salons. The launch of the searchable map came a week after Google’s Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan stated that young users were turning to apps like Instagram and TikTok instead of Google Search or Maps when looking to discover new places.

After cutting into one of Google’s core businesses, Instagram may now be looking to take on Snapchat and Apple with its Friend Map.

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