- Instagram, the Facebook-owned photo-sharing application with 800 million users, is testing a separate app for private messages, called Direct. The pilot program may be the first step toward removing messaging features from the original platform, the Verge reported.
- Direct is available to download for Android and iOS in six countries: Uruguay, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Portugal and Israel. Installing the app removes the inbox from a user's linked Instagram account and must be opened separately to read messages, similar to how Facebook is separate from its Messenger app.
- Direct currently consists of three screens, the first of which opens to the camera. Swiping to see the left screen reveals a user profile screen that has access to settings, accounts and navigation to different parts of Instagram. The right screen has the inbox of messages from friends.
By splitting off messaging functions from Instagram, the company is repeating the steps Facebook took in 2014 to make Messenger a standalone app outside the flagship social networking site. At the time, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said each app can only focus on doing one thing well on a mobile platform. Since then, Facebook has grown more cluttered with a mix of individual posts, alerts, group updates and notices about how friends react to other posts, among other items.
Rather than potentially clutter Instagram with more features, Direct appears to focus on messaging in a way that makes it more like Snapchat, the upstart from which many social media platforms appearing to be cribbing features. While Snapchat has about 178 million users, Instagram Stories has 300 million users, or almost half of Instagram's total user base.
Given Instagram's huge user base, Direct has the potential to take off similar to how Facebook's other messaging platforms Messenger and WhatsApp previously have. It's still unclear whether Instagram's new messaging app will include ads, though Instagram has recently begun to include more space for marketers to engage users.
Meanwhile, Facebook has continued to update its platforms in what appears to be a greater emphasis on messaging, with more tools for both users and marketers, including introducing display ads on Messenger in July and a messages objective in Facebook Ad Manager in September. Facebook also wants to get kids hooked on its platforms with the introduction of Facebook Messenger Kids.