Instagram launches standalone messaging app in select test markets
MANILA, Philippines – Instagram is testing a standalone version of Direct, its in-app messaging feature, launching it in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay on Friday, November 8, Philippine time.
The standalone app opens directly to the camera, sporting an interface similar to Instagram Stories, the platform's ephemeral sharing feature.
While it's only officially a test now, a wider release will give parent company Facebook 3 messaging apps, including Messenger and WhatsApp.
Instagram product manager Hemal Shah told Verge that the move enables them to craft a stronger messaging experience, as opposed to Direct being a feature of Instagram.
“Direct has grown within Instagram over the past 4 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," Shah said.
The move is similar to Facebook's decision to spin its messaging feature, Messenger, out of the main platform and into its own app. The standalone Messenger app has amassed 1.3 billion users since its launch in 2011. In 2014, Facebook removed messaging inside its main app, requiring users to download Messenger if they wanted to chat with Facebook contacts.
With a precedent, Facebook may be eyeing a similar progression with Instagram and its Direct app.
One way that Instagram may be able to lure users to download Direct is with exclusive filters. The Verge notes that there are currently 4 of these that aren't found in the original Instagram app, providing 3 examples: "One filter bleeps you at random while blurring your mouth, which you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel’s unnecessary censorship videos. Another filter creates a live cut-out of your mouth and superimposes it over your actual mouth, making you look like an insane clown. A 3rd filter creates an infinite video loop zooming in on your open mouth as multiple versions of your head swirl around you."
Instagram hasn't announced a global release date, but TechCrunch reports that the app will arrive in 2018 after bugs have been worked out and user feedback has been collected. – Rappler.com