Instagram is currently testing a standalone app for private messages similar to Facebook’s Messenger. Called “Direct”, trials of the iOS and Android app launched in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay.
Instagram built the app in order to boost engagement between its users as the photo app itself is more focused on showcasing creative and promotional works.
Direct also opens to a camera when opened – just like competitor Snapchat. Once installed, the Direct inbox disappears from the Instagram app and messages can only be accessed via Direct.
Hemal Shah, Instagram product manager, told The Verge:
“We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is an important part of that. Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own. We can push the boundaries to create the fastest and most creative space for private sharing when Direct is a camera-first, standalone app.”
It’s all too familiar with parent Facebook having taken similar steps before in order to launch its Messenger app.
After Instagram discovered that its app’s messaging feature had grown to 375 million users monthly by April 2017, the company decided to create a dedicated app for messaging.
Although the current design of the app is still pretty basic and leans on the same features that Instagram provides, Direct also includes some nice swiping mechanisms. A swipe to the right, for example, will take users back into the Instagram app.
In addition, the company has added some additional filters – perhaps to make use of Direct a little more enticing for new users. After all, why disrupt a perfectly well functioning part of an app if there’s nothing in it for the end user?
Indeed, if Instagram can manage to boost Direct’s features just enough for the app to become interesting as a standalone, it is likely that the messaging app may not face the same backlash that parent Facebook’s Messenger did.