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Instagram is reportedly separating Direct messages into its own separate, Snapchat-like app

Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesInstagram CEO Kevin Systrom.
  • Instagram is launching Direct, a standalone, messaging-focused app.
  • The service essentially takes the main Instagram app’s messaging features and packs them into a separate experience, which will seamlessly communicate with the main, feed-oriented app.
  • Direct is now in testing in just a few countries, and it’s unclear if and when it will see a broader rollout.

Instagram is spinning out its Direct messaging feature into its own separate app, The Verge first reported.

The new standalone app is reportedly just a test, for now, and will start rolling out today for iOS and Android users in six test countries: Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay.

The new app’s structure feels a lot like Snapchat: When users open it, the camera pane will open, emphasising the app’s focus on creating new material (photos and videos) to share. The camera itself is identical to Instagram’s, but there are four new, exclusive filters.

An account and settings option will live to the camera’s left, while swiping the other way will present you with the list of chats, exactly as it works on Instagram’s main app now.

When users install the new Direct app, Instagram will automatically stop displaying chats; a swipe to the left will present you with a swift animation that brings you straight into Direct, while doing the same from Direct’s inbox will send you back to Instagram.

IG DirectInstagram/The VergeThe new Direct app is strikingly simple, and doesn’t do much other than pull out the messaging experience out of the main Instagram service.

The move feels strikingly similar to what parent company Facebook did when it separated the messaging experience outside the social network’s main app three years ago.

“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 The Verge.

“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.”

Facebook Messenger, which started its journey with 500 million users and a wave of 1-star reviews, now sits at 1.3 billion users, and ratings have improved up to a 3-star average.

As a messaging-first experience, Direct becomes Facebook’s third service of its kind, beyond the aforementioned Messenger and WhatsApp.

In the past few years, WhatsApp has remained a relatively unchanged, bare-bones messaging app, while Messenger has become much more, transforming into a platform of its own: Bots, payment options, phone calls, and even games have now found a home in Messenger.

Instagram calls Direct a camera-first messaging service, but it’s still unclear what path it is going to take (if it gets out of this experimental phase at all).

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