Instagram is testing a standalone application for private messages called Direct, a first step to possibly eliminate the messaging functions of the main application. Direct, which opens to the camera in the same way as Snapchat, will be 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 application and can only be accessed in the messaging application. If Instagram presents Direct worldwide, currently does not have a timeline to do so, the measure could give the parent company Facebook a third popular messaging tool with Messenger and WhatsApp.
Although officially it is only a test, the Instagram logic to build the Direct application is that private messaging can never be a better experience when it is inside an application intended for public transmission. "We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and sharing privately with close friends is an important part of that," said Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager. "Direct has grown within Instagram for the past four years, but we can do even better if it's independent." We can expand the boundaries to create the fastest and most creative space for private exchange when Direct is the camera's standalone application. " "We can overcome the limits to create the fastest and most creative space for private exchange".
If that sounds familiar, it's because Facebook has made a transition like this before. In 2014, the company closed the messaging within the main application, forcing users to download Messenger. "On mobile devices, each application can only focus on doing one thing well," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the time. "Asking people to install another application is a painful thing in the short term, but if we wanted to focus on serving this well [use case] we had to create a dedicated and focused experience."
Direct was created according to a similar logic. While direct messaging was originally a last-minute idea on Instagram, after several redesigns, it accumulated 375 million monthly users by April of this year, the company says. Its rise has coincided with the growth of Instagram stories, which encourage users to return quick responses to friends' messages by adding a "send message" box below each one.
Now Instagram will see if their tools for private messages can thrive on their own. There are reasons to believe that they will: messaging applications have more users added than social networks, and some have speculated that growing cultural tensions are pushing more conversations from public forums to private groups. If messaging becomes a large and pseudo-independent pillar of Instagram, it could further entrench the application in the lives of its users and at the same time open up significant new business opportunities.
In its current and experimental state, there is little in Direct that you won Currently I can not find it on Instagram. The application consists of only three screens. Like Snapchat, it opens up to the camera, in an effort to get used to sharing regularly. (You do not need to take a photo, you can also display to show a screen that allows you to write your message.) On the left of the camera there is a profile screen that allows you to access the settings, change accounts and navigate to several Instagram corners. On the right is your message inbox. That is the whole application.
Still, there are some nice touches. The designers created what could be the most recent application transition I've seen in my life: if you start to slide to the right of the direct inbox, an Instagram logo appears and starts to stand out from the side of the application. Swipe to the right and Direct will open Instagram. Similarly, you can slide your finger to the right on Instagram to reveal the Direct logo (a modified version of the paper logo that Instagram used for messages for a long time) and complete your slide will take you back to Direct.
The other novelty found in the test application is four exclusive filters, and all would like to be available in the Instagram application. A filter makes you sound randomly while your mouth is blurry, which you'll appreciate if you ever enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel's unnecessary censoring videos. Another filter creates a live cut from your mouth and superimposes it on your real mouth, making you look like an insane clown. A third filter creates an infinite video loop approaching your open mouth while multiple versions of your head swirl around you.
If there's a downside to Direct, it's that getting the full Instagram experience now will require users to go back and forth between applications. This can be particularly serious for people who initiate many talks from the information of the stories (this is my most common use of Instagram messages). In my experience, using a new iPhone X, browsing between applications was anything but perfect. I'll be curious to see what it looks like in older phone models, and in countries where data connections may be less reliable.
When Facebook split Messenger from the main application, it provoked a protest from the users, who launched a -critical stars. Nowadays, the application has 1,300 million monthly users, compared to 500 million of the year that was divided, and even so its classification has increased to only three stars in iOS. (Instagram has a five-star rating).
One conclusion that a company could draw from this experience is that, although some users will complain about having to download a second application, the improved experience will help the general audience grow much more. And yet, I can not imagine that the product team on Instagram is satisfied with a three-star rating for Direct. And then I think there's an equally important second lesson to take from the Messenger experience.
It's hard to remember now, but Messenger was once as fast and simple as Direct is today. It was only when it developed on its own that it became the crate full of garbage that it is today: a bewildering combination of private messages, group chats, ephemeral stories, games, customer service bots, payments and phone calls. The challenge for Instagram is to expand the feature set of Direct, retaining the simplicity that made it attractive in the first place.