In 2014, Facebook removed messaging features from its mobile app and released it as a separate standalone app, requiring users to download it if they wanted to take advantage of Facebook's chat functionalities on mobile. The same thing might be happening to Instagram, which — surprise — Facebook owns.
Instagram Is Testing Standalone Direct App
Instagram is reportedly testing a standalone app for private messaging called Direct, which, by the looks of it, is the first step toward removing messaging features from the photo-sharing service and putting it in a separate app.
As The Verge reports, Direct is merely in testing phase and will only launch in six countries, including Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. Very much like Messenger, Direct splits Instagram in half: the Instagram inbox will live in Direct, while the traditional photo-sharing features will remain a staple of the main app. Want to use both features at the same time? Download both apps and shuffle back and forth, as on Facebook and Messenger.
Why Is Instagram Doing This?
The goal, of course, is to push more people to use private messaging features on Instagram. First launched in 2013, Direct was a way to share photos and videos with friends secretly. At first, the feature felt out of place against the typical Instagram experience, but things changed over time. Instagram slowly became more lenient toward video and took a page from Snapchat's playbook and launched its own ephemeral photo-sharing service, Stories.
Ever since Stories exploded, Instagram has become a mish-mash of functionalities, an app with an identity crisis. What is it? Is it about photo? Video? Stories? Private messaging? A little bit of everything? It's Facebook's fault as well, one could argue. Why does Facebook have Stories too? Messenger? WhatsApp? Perhaps detaching Direct from Instagram is a way to make the Instagram experience less cluttered and convoluted.
When Facebook cut off Messenger from the main app, people responded negatively. These days, it's accepted as an essential part of the Facebook ecosystem, as Engadget points out. It has also allowed Facebook to add things and experiments such as Messenger Chatbots and Messenger Instant Games.
"We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is an important part of that," said Hemal Shah, product manager for Instagram. "Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own."
It remains unclear how people would respond to this split. Is Instagram better off as an integrated app or as one-half of an experience? As always, feel free to sound off in the comments section below!