Instagram testing standalone Direct messaging app

Instagram has been steadily updating and improving the Direct messaging inside its app since the feature launched in late 2013, and now it looks like Instagram is ready to spin Direct out into its own app.

Instagram is now testing a standalone Direct app. It’s available for both Android and iPhone, but only in a handful of countries: Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay.

Right now, the standalone Direct app offers the same feature set as Direct inside of Instagram. You open to the camera, a move to encourage you to share a photo, and you can pull down to type out a text message. To the left of hte camera is your profile and to the right is your inbox.

There are four filters exclusive to the Direct app, including one that’ll blur your mouth and randomly censor your word and another that creates an infinite video loop that zooms in on your open mouth as multiple versions of your head swirl around you.

Instagram standalone Direct app more screenshots

Direct also makes it easy to hop into the full-on Instagram app. Just swipe to the right of your Direct inbox and you’ll pop into Instagram. Once you’re in Instagram, you can swipe right to jump back into Direct.

As for why Instagram is testing a standalone Direct app, the company believes that Direct can only do so much while it’s inside of another app. “Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own,” Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, told The Verge. “We can push the boundaries to create the fastest and most creative space for private sharing when Direct is a camera-first, standalone app.”

Moving Direct out of Instagram and into its own app seems like it could be a pain, forcing anyone that ever uses Direct to download a separate app and jump between it and Instagram if they ever want to message anyone. Such a move could also prevent new users from trying Direct. That said, moving a messaging feature out of a core app into a standalone app doesn’t seem to have hurt Messenger, which was spun out of Facebook into its own app in 2011. We’ll have to wait and see if Direct can do the same thing.

Do you think Instagram’s Direct would be popular as a standalone app?

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