Instagram Tests Direct for a Stand-Alone Messaging App

Instagram may be following Facebook in pushing private messaging into a standalone app

The app, which will be made available starting on Thursday to Android and iOS users, could eventually replace the messaging tools built into Instagram and create another way to communicate through mobile apps. Apparently if you keep swiping left from your inbox, you see the Instagram logo and are then sent to the Instagram app.

It's no secret that Facebook has its sights set on Snapchat, one of the social media giant's fiercest competitors.

As a messaging-first experience, Direct becomes Facebook's third service of its kind, beyond the aforementioned Messenger and WhatsApp. Direct is a new Instagram companion app to send and receive messages. "We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is an important part of that", Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, told me. Direct also ships with four exclusive filters and is ultimately seeking to grow its user base even more by providing people with a more focused experience, albeit one that's still deeply integrated into Instagram.

The standalone Direct app opens on the camera like Snapchat, and swiping to the left of it will bring users to their Profile screens, whereas their inbox is located to the right.

Instagram may be following Facebook in pushing private messaging into a standalone app

When described that way, Direct makes more sense.

"Camera-first", huh? That sure sounds a lot like Snapchat.

Instagram's latestmove follows parent company Facebook's decision to remove private chats from its main app. Direct opens to the camera, just like Snapchat, and lets you slap some fun filters on your face before firing off a photo to your friends. In January, TechCrunch reported that the launch of Instagram Stories had resulted in lower usage of Snapchat Stories.

The coolest thing about Direct is that it's so easy to transition from Instagram to Direct. A swipe down in this pane will reveal a text field with a gradient background in case you just wanna type something up for someone. But if Direct doesn't stray too far off from where it sits now, having two separate apps might be forgivable. If you anxious this new app would make private messaging complicated, this proves it won't.