On the surface, Threads is essentially an extension of Instagram's Close Friends feature for Stories, which was introduced in 2018. Close Friends, in case you're not familiar with it, lets you share pictures, videos and message only with groups of people you've carefully selected. In fact, if you haven't created a Close Friends list on Instagram, you'll need to do that the first time you fire up Threads in order to use it. I did not have a Close Friends list, but creating one was fairly easy: you just go through the list of people you're following and choose whomever you want to add.
That step is important because you can only share things with people on that list in Threads. You can send things to all of them at once, or to individual people, but they have to be on that list. For the most part, I picked people I know in real life, since those are the ones I'm most likely to have meaningful, private conversations with. Once you have your list ready, Threads will ask if you want to create shortcuts for up to eight of your closest Close Friends. This puts their profile picture next to the camera shutter button for quick access. (I sort of I wish I had in the main Instagram app.)
Instagram has billed Threads as a "camera-first" app (it's coming for you again, Snapchat), so right when you open it you go straight into camera mode. Like on Instagram, you can tap the shutter once to take a picture or hold it to record a video. My main instinct after taking a picture was to swipe to add an effect or filter, but you can't do that in Threads. There's no word on whether that staple of Instagram will be coming in the future. For now, all you can do to your photos or video is add text or scribble on them.
From the camera view, the main interface consists of a shutter button, shortcuts and Home. The latter is where you can instantly get a view of all your direct messages, as well as create groups and change settings, including status (more on that shortly), shortcuts and themes. For example, you can choose between dark and light modes for your app.
No matter where you are in Threads though, whether it be Home or your direct messages, you always have easy access to the camera and Close Friends shortcuts. And in your DMs, you can view people's Instagram Stories, but if you want to view their entire profile the app will redirect you to Instagram. That's understandable since Threads is intended to be a messaging app, not another way to browse and like your friends' pictures.