How this developer is picking apart the Instagram app and finding new unreleased features
Snapchat’s continuing implosion is Instagram’s gain.
A couple of weeks ago developer Jane Manchun Wong shared a list of new, unreleased Instagram features the app was privately testing. Then, on Saturday, Wong unloaded even more possible features that may or may not ever see the light of day.
I caught up with Wong over Twitter DM to get a better understanding how she was making these discoveries.
Wong says she keeps a copy of each new public version of Instagram (for Android) and then decompiles the app’s code using a publicly available tool capable of reverse engineering closed Android apps (she requested I not include the tool’s name because she’s not an advocate of people using it for hacking or other malicious purposes) and a custom Python script she wrote herself.
“The more I find, the more I learn. I see this as my hobby. It’s like treasure hunting.”
She then looks through the new code to see what’s changed and what new features have been added that haven’t been made public. “It requires reading through assembly code and it’s a pain to make some of the finds possible.”
What Wong doesn’t have is access to any developer preview version of the app. “I don’t have a developer preview. If I do, all of these will be a breach of a NDA (if there’s one).”
Reverse-engineering the code is painstaking for sure and one would think Wong is doing it for the fame. But that’s not the impression I got from our conversation.
“The more I find, the more I learn. I see this as my hobby. It’s like treasure hunting,” Wong said. “Sure, it takes some of my free time, but the treasure is the bugs and hidden features that I can get some laughs from.”
Wong pointed me to a recent tweet response from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in response to a hidden end-to-end encryption Twitter DM feature she discovered:
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) May 11, 2018
“Sometimes I just do that for the lolz and see how they would react to it,” Wong says. “For example, Jack the CEO of Twitter handled my find very well lol.”
With that light-hearted mentality, here are some of the new unreleased features Wong’s discovered.
Rainbow hashtags in captions for Pride Month:
Rainbow stickers and hashtags for Pride Month:
Rainbow hearts on Instagram Live for Pride Month:
Send multiple photos and videos in Instagram Direct:
Slightly tweaked Instagram Direct UI and emoji:
A way for business accounts to “request verification badge”:
More detailed mute features:
Instagram improved their mute feature in addition:
1. You can go to someone’s profile that you follow and mute their posts or stories or both. You don’t have to wait for their posts to appear anymore
2. The mute status will be indicated on their profile and you can undo it pic.twitter.com/tikVy6wCUq
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) May 12, 2018