Instagram Is Testing A Standalone App For Direct Messaging | Download It Now

Instagram is testing a standalone app for private messages called Direct, a first step toward possibly toward removing messaging features from the core app. Direct, which opens to the camera in the same way Snapchat does, will become available on Android and iOS today in six countries: Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. If you install Direct, the inbox disappears from the Instagram app and can only be accessed in the messaging app. If Instagram introduces Direct globally — it currently has no timeline for doing so — the move could give parent company Facebook a third popular messaging tool alongside Messenger and WhatsApp.

Although it is officially only a test, Instagram’s rationale for building Direct app is that private messaging can never be a best-in-class experience when it lives inside an app meant for broadcasting publicly. “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 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.”

By separating Direct into its own app, Facebook can potentially pull off the same coup for Instagram, creating a new channel to shove advertising in front of users’ eyeballs. It’s also the culmination of its strategy of completely ripping off Snapchat after the company snubbed a $3 billion takeover offer in 2013. Facebook has failed to attract younger users to its main apps, so it’s attempted to either copy or buy apps that they are using, like Snapchat, or TBH—an app that teens use to anonymously compliment each other—that Facebook purchased earlier this year.

Over the last year, Facebook has injected just about every feature that makes Snapchat special into Instagram. It’s introduced daily “Stories”—short video or photo posts that users can broadcast to their followers that disappear after 24 hours—as well as filters, lenses, and stickers. It’s boasting that it has millions more users posting on Stories than Snapchat has at all. According to The Verge, the new Direct app mirrors the structure and purpose of Snapchat, minus the content from publishers and brands.

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