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Instagram’s First Launch Under Mosseri Targets University Networks

Culture

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In a nod to Facebook’s origins, Instagram’s latest launch aims to connect university students.

Instagram’s second chapter after the departure of its founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger has begun, as the company announced its first “launch” under new leader Adam Mosseri: university community networks, designed to connect Instagram users at schools across the country.

After piloting this feature earlier in the year, they’ve officially rolled out these communities, which “allow you to join your university’s network to add a line to your profile listing your school, class year and your major, sports team or fraternity/sorority.” In a likely attempt to help students find one another online, “[they’ll] show up in a directory listing everyone from your school that you can use to follow or message people, though those DMs may go to their pending inbox.”

In many ways, the move hearkens back to Facebook’s earliest days as a gated online community specifically for college students. But Instagram’s iteration allows the user to opt in, rather than requiring affiliation for account creation. “Instagram relies on info users have publicly shared about their school and the people they followed to verify if they were in fact a student or recent alumni of a university,” TechCrunch reported earlier this week. “Rather than actively signing up, users will get a notification prompting them to join the network.”

There is some risk in making this an opt-in system, as testing showed. After a few missteps in piloting, safeguards have been put in place to prevent inappropriate or potentially dangerous entry. “The company does provide a tool for alerting it to misuse of the school communities feature in case any sketchy older users are employing it as a stalking tool.” If a user sees someone who doesn’t seem they should be there? “Next to each user’s name is an overflow menu […] where people can report accounts they don’t think belong in a certain community.”

The other new feature officially launched this week, scannable nametags, may also help feed into the budding communities this tool will develop. Students who meet in person can scan these codes (technically not QR codes) to automatically follow one another. Although the move feels like a facsimile of Snapchat’s Snapcodes, they make a lot of sense on a more frequented app that doesn’t easily support links.

Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has been emphasizing the role that their tools are to take in connecting people to one another. As Mosseri takes his experiences from Facebook to his new platform, we’ll be on the lookout for more tools and features that support their larger stated goal.

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