If you're an avid Instagram user, you're probably more than a little familiar with the app's direct messaging capabilities (or DMs, as the youths say). DMs allow you to chat privately with your friends, connect with followers, and personally react to stories your friends have posted. And now, Instagram is doing something huge: Instagram is testing out a new app called Instagram Direct. But, what is the new Instagram Direct? It's a brand new app that connects to your Instagram profile and is strictly about direct messaging. Think Facebook Messenger mixed with Snapchat, which honestly might be the best idea ever.
Direct is already causing a stir in the tech world, even though Instagram hasn't announced any plans for it be released globally just yet. It's currently being tested in only six countries: Chile, Israel, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. If you don't live in those countries, you may have to wait a while for Direct to be available to you — but that doesn't mean you can't get excited about the more than likely inevitable global release (I hope!) by learning more about it.
Direct is super similar to Facebook Messenger, which shouldn't be particularly surprising — since Facebook took over Instagram, more and more similarities have been popping up between the two. Currently, the test version of the app doesn't allow you to DM in Instagram itself at all. With this version, when users install Direct, the inbox icon (the little airplane in the upper righthand corner) disappears from Instagram and can only be accessed in Direct. This could be just a test version, but it probably points to a move towards getting rid of direct messaging on the Instagram app altogether. So, just like when Messenger came about, and you could no longer message people on Facebook's app; instead, you had to download Messenger.
The thought of being required to download a new app in order to DM via Instagram might sound unnecessary — however, you might want to give this one a chance. Creators came up with it because they feel that it's difficult to have a great private messaging experience in the same app that allows you to publicly broadcast messages. Think moments of accidentally adding a private message to your public story; that snafu can happen easily, and so you might not be as inclined to DM on Instagram, because you don't want to mess up and broadcast something private. Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, told The Verge, "We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is an important part of that. 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."
When described that way, Direct makes more sense. Also, the new app just seems really cool. It opens camera-first, so just like Snapchat, and it's very simple, with only three screens. While photos are encouraged, you're not limited to using them. You can pull down to reveal a screen that allows you to type out a message (more like Messenger). If you do want to send photos, though, it's a fun experience — right now, there are four different filters on the test app. None of them are offered on Instagram right now, and they're all just fun and silly, like one that replaces your mouth with a large, clown-like mouth. With a global release, a lot more filters would probably be added, and since Instagram has uses stickers and locations in stories, one would assume those would be included too.
The coolest thing about Direct is that it's so easy to transition from Instagram to Direct. When you're on Instagram, you can swipe right to reveal the Direct logo, and if you continue swiping, you'll be redirected to the Direct app. On the Direct app, you can swipe right to transition to Instagram. If you worried this new app would make private messaging complicated, this proves it won't. The seamless transition will almost make it feel like you're in one app.
Direct could be a really big deal for the company. As The Verge points out, Instagram has grown tremendously since creating direct messaging, and ongoing updates to it have only helped. The company says it has accumulated 375 million monthly users (as of April 2017) and they attribute a lot of this gain to direct messaging and updates within Instagram stories.
It looks like there are a lot of big new things coming to Instagram in 2018, honestly, all of it sounds exciting. The way you communicate with your friends just got a whole lot more fun!