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Direct is Instagram's test to duplicate the success of Facebook Messenger

The new Direct app, which is being tested in a few markets, could result in Instagram separating its direct messaging features from its main app.

Published onDecember 7, 2017

It looks like Instagram is thinking strongly about doing something that its parent company, Facebook, did a few years ago. A new report reveals that Instagram is currently testing Direct, an app for direct messaging for its users, in a select few countries.

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As first reported by The Verge, Direct is currently available in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. If a user in one of those countries downloads Direct, their inbox from the main app goes away and is replaced by this new standalone app for private messaging with other Instagram users. According to Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, the reason for this limited test launch for Direct is that the company feels that such features can only be improved if they are available as an app on its own, rather than just a feature inside the main Instagram app.

The Direct app itself is apparently on the bare bones side at this point. When you launch it, you only have three screens: a settings section, an inbox to check out your messages, and the main screen where you can type in messages or send a photo or video to other users. Swiping the app all the way to the right will bring up the main Instagram app. Direct also has four exclusive photo and video filters that are not currently in the main Instagram app, including a funny one that randomly bleeps your voice and covers up your mouth.

Of course, we have been through all of this before. Facebook decided to separate the mobile version of Messenger from the main app in 2014 (it’s still available as part of the desktop app) and since then it has been used by over 1.3 billion people. Messenger has been adding new features since it separated from Facebook, including most recently adding a way to send money directly to friends. Facebook is also trying to monetize all those users by including in-app ads in Messenger.

Even though Instagram is currently testing Direct, it sounds like the company is pressing hard to make it a true standalone app worldwide sooner rather than later. How do you feel about Instagram possibly decoupling its messaging features into its own app? Do you buy its argument that keeping those features in the Instagram app is actually the wrong way to go?

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