Is it possible for lightning to strike twice? That seems to be the big question being asked today, as Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the creators of Instagram, unveil their next social app to the world. The two have reportedly started a company to investigate social apps, with their first offering being Artifact, a bespoke news reader.
The app is not yet available to the general public, but there is a waitlist where users can register their interest. From what I can tell, it’s essentially an updated version of Google Reader, an RSS reader app that Google discontinued in 2013.
Artifact, in this case, is a newsreader that uses machine learning to tailor the experience to the individual user and integrates social features that encourage users to discuss the articles they find with one another. (It’s true that Google Reader had a comparable function, but it required users to manually code in RSS feeds.)
The news stories presented by Artifact will initially be chosen by curators, but as the app learns more about the user’s preferences, it will start to show more relevant results. The articles could come from a variety of sources, some much larger than others, such as The New York Times and others much more modest.
In addition to the ability to moderate comments and view articles shared by the people you follow alongside their thoughts and perspectives, there will also be a private messaging system for communicating with other users about anything posted on the site.
The idea appears to share some similarities with one of Twitter’s primary functions: the discussion of breaking news. Also, it comes at a time when Twitter users are weighing their options following the app’s acquisition by Elon Musk, who has made a number of erratic and divisive changes to the app’s roadmap and policies, driving away some of the app’s longtime users in the process.
The founders have pledged to make the “subjective” and “hard” calls over the content on their network, and the company is entering a highly polarised news ecosystem.
It’s hard to discount the impact of Instagram’s creators, though; the company was acquired for a cool billion dollars, making it one of the largest social tech deals ever. Instagram has changed the way people all over the world interact with social media.
Although a revenue share with publishers has been discussed, Artifact is still in its early stages of development and has not yet been monetized. Isn’t that an old joke? The founders appear committed to using their new business as a laboratory for a variety of experimental social products, so the app’s own success may or may not be that important.