It’s no secret that Facebook has its sights set on Snapchat, one of the social media giant’s fiercest competitors. If you’re a heavy Instagram user, you’ve probably noticed lots of small changes, new features, and A/B tests that mimic Snapchat’s most popular features, such as a revamped direct messaging feature, face filters for stories, cartoony messaging stickers, and more. Few have impacted Instagram’s core functionality — the editing and uploading tools remain untouched, for the most part — but Facebook’s reportedly considering far more drastic changes in the near future. One proposal? Breaking Instagram’s Direct Messages feature out into a separate messaging application called Direct, which launches today in a handful of developing markets.
Direct seems almost like a Snapchat clone. Just like Snapchat, its default screen is your phone’s front-facing viewfinder. From there, you’ve got one-tap access to Instagram’s face filters (including four exclusive ones) and a pull-down menu that lets you type messages. A swipe left shows your Instagram profile screen settings and frequently used shortcuts, and a swipe right opens your messaging inbox. An even further swipe right pulls up the regular Instagram app, if it’s installed.
If Direct’s installed on an iOS or Android device alongside Instagram, the latter’s familiar messaging inbox disappears; It’s superseded by Direct, which launches with a swipe right from anywhere in Instagram.
Direct, at its core, is Facebook’s attempt to excise direct messaging from the core Instagram experience. It’s par for the course for the social network, which took the same approach with Messenger back in 2014. Since the social network made the split, the standalone Messenger app’s grown into a veritable platform of its own, replete with an app store, chat bots, and a user base of more than a billion people.
The Messenger move generated pretty severe backlash at first, to be fair, mostly from Facebook users who didn’t want to install a separate app to access their messages and chats. But it remains to be seen if the launch of Direct will rile up Instagram users the same way. Time will tell.
Direct launches in six countries — Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay– today.