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Instagram launches standalone messaging app in select test markets

09 December 2017

The app will open up with the camera in a similar fashion to Snapchat, and installing the standalone Direct app will actually remove the Direct feature from the standard Instagram app. It means users can use this app for messaging to their Instagram friends. The app will be available in handful of countries starting today on both Android and iOS. However, a comment from product manager Hemal Shah suggests that the company has already made up its mind regarding whether or not Direct will stay or not. "Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own".

As a camera-first app, Direct follows the same design lines as its sister app and parent platform Instagram. Direct has some potential to be a successful stand-alone app that offers a better stand-alone messaging experience, although some user backlash and friction could reasonably be expected, like what Facebook experienced when it unbundled Messenger. The new Direct app will have a structure that is similar to Snapchat.

To date, Instagram Stories has been Facebook's most successful effort to replicate Snap's (NYSE: SNAP) Snapchat and its Stories feature. Considering how many private conversations have sprung up from Instagram photos and stories, having to jump back and forth between Instagram and Direct might be a bit disconcerting. But let's see what Instagram brings to this new direct messaging app as messaging on Instagram is a quite popular feature. A swipe left shows your Instagram profile screen settings and frequently used shortcuts, and a swipe right opens your messaging inbox.

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Given that Instagram is owned by Facebook, it is worth mentioning that Facebook now has three such messaging apps - new Direct, Messenger and WhatsApp.

The app has four exclusive filters which are not available on the Instagram core app. Facebook's decision was controversial at the time, but the move has ultimately paid off for the company, with Messenger now boasting more than 1.2 billion monthly active users.

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.

Instagram launches standalone messaging app in select test markets