The public debut of the following social media platform created by Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger seems to be raising that issue today. According to a story in The Verge, the pair have started a new business to investigate social apps, which includes the launch product Artifact, a customized news reader.
Although the app itself is not yet accessible to the general public, there is a waitlist where interested individuals can register. According to the description, it sounds like a modernized version of Google Reader, a discontinued RSS newsreader tool that Google discontinued in 2013.
With the exception of this instance, Artifact is defined as a newsreader that combines social features that let users discuss articles they come across with friends with machine learning to customize the experience for the user. (To be fair, Google Reader had a capability similar to this, but the user had to design the app in order to directly add RSS feeds.)
According to The Verge’s report, Artifact will initially display a curated selection of news pieces, but over time, they will become more tailored to the user’s preferences. The stories may originate from well-known sources like The New York Times in some cases, and less well-known websites in others.
In addition, there will be settings for commenting, separate feeds for items posted by people you follow along with their feedback, and a direct message inbox for more private discussion of postings.
The idea seems to be somewhat similar to one of Twitter’s more popular use cases for debating news. It also comes at a time when Twitter users are evaluating other choices following Elon Musk’s takeover of the service, who has haphazardly made a number of contentious changes to the app’s roadmap and policies that have alienated some devoted followers.
However, as it is currently described, Artifact doesn’t sound entirely unique; in addition to sounding like a contemporary take on a Google Reader-type experience, it would compete with a number of other news reading apps, both recent and classic, that feature personalization features, such as Flipboard, SmartNews, and Newsbreak.
It also sounds a lot like Pocket and its more recent rival Matter, which combines news reading with expertly chosen recommendations and comments.
Even Substack has now taken advantage of Twitter’s instability by introducing a feature that allows its readers and writers to talk inside the app. The strategy has been successful overseas with ByteDance’s Toutiao, but it would be challenging to develop a U.S. equivalent.
Naturally, the new app would also face off against the social media behemoth Meta, which Instagram’s co-founders quit in 2018.
In addition to receiving updates from friends, family, groups, and businesses they follow, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp though to a lesser extent serve as gateways where billions interact and engage with news and information.
This implies that no matter how sophisticated or distinctive Artifact may become, it may still face a lot of competition in a market where customers already have access to built-in news apps like Apple News and Google News.
The pair, according to a story by The Verge, thinks that recent advances in machine-learning technology might help Artifact gain an advantage, just like algorithmic recommendations helped TikTok become a well-known app.
Even if it’s debatable that TikTok’s customized For You feed is addicting, the video app’s development was spurred by record-breaking marketing spending on its user acquisition efforts, even surpassing $1 billion per year in 2018, according to The WSJ.
With the creators offering to make the “subjective” and “hard” decisions regarding the content on its network, it is also entering a polarised news ecosystem.
That being said, it’s tough to discount the achievements of individuals who created Instagram, which, at a billion dollars, was one of the biggest social tech purchases of its time and has influenced how the world uses social media, for better or worse.
Artifact is still in the early stages of development and has not yet been monetized, however a revenue split with publishers was suggested as a potential strategy.
Though it appears that the founders plan to test other new social products through their new business, it is possible that the success of the app as a whole won’t ultimately matter.
Sign-ups are currently being accepted on Artifact’s website from those with U.S. (+1) phone numbers.