Instagram testing a stand-alone messaging app called Direct

Kevin Systrom

Photo-sharing service Instagram is working on an spin-off messaging app called Direct, which could one day replace the built-in direct message service in the mainstream app.

Instagram is testing the app right now in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay for both Android and iOS users.

Instagram has reportedly yet to attach a time frame for separating Direct Messages from its popular mobile app, though that appears to be a long-term goal for the company and one that's expected to be achieved at some point in 2018.

Direct works how you might expect, in that you can swipe to the right to access your profile (and settings), and then swipe to the left from the camera to open your inbox of messages.

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As a messaging-first experience, Direct becomes Facebook's third service of its kind, beyond the aforementioned Messenger and WhatsApp. If you swipe to the right while in the Direct inbox, you'll get a little transition of the Instagram logo that will fully expand and automatically launch Instagram. Hopefully this ease will be enough to appease most users. To recall, Facebook forced users to install Messenger app to chat with friends. Installing Direct app will remove the message section from the Instagram app. Judging by Messenger's success, we can only guess that if and when Instagram rolls Direct out worldwide, it too could enjoy the massive popularity that being standalone has been proven to bring. 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.

The coolest thing about Direct is that it's so easy to transition from Instagram to Direct. According to Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, the reason for this limited test launch for Direct is that the company feels that such features can only be improved if they are available as an app on its own, rather than just a feature inside the main Instagram app.

'Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own. If you anxious this new app would make private messaging complicated, this proves it won't. But the app now has over one billion monthly active users.

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