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Instagram ends experiment with standalone Direct messaging app

Facebook is shutting down Direct, a standalone camera-first messaging app used to send Instagram direct messages. “In the coming month, we’ll no longer be supporting the Direct app,” read a message in the app announcing the shutdown. “Your conversations will automatically move over to Instagram, so you don’t need to do anything.” The announcement was first spotted by social media commentator Matt Navarra.

First launched in December 2017, Direct was an apparent attempt by Instagram to take on Snapchat’s core functionality. The app launched directly into its camera, complete with plenty of Snapchat-style filters, but you could also swipe down from the top of the screen to type messages to your Instagram contacts. Direct was the second time Instagram borrowed an idea from Snapchat; it also launched a Stories feature of its own in 2016 that’s since grown into a major part of its platform.

Instagram hasn’t explicitly said why it’s bringing its experiment with Direct to an end. The app initially launched in six countries (Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay), but it appears to have never rolled out globally. An Instagram spokesperson said that the company is “rolling back the test of the standalone Direct app” and is “focused on continuing to make Instagram Direct the best place for fun conversations with your friends.” They added that all the features from the Direct app are currently available on Instagram. TechCrunch reports that Instagram will continue to work on Direct’s features, but they’ll no longer live in a separate app.

When Direct first launched, we speculated that it could mark the first step toward removing direct messaging from the core Instagram app, similar to the way Facebook removed the ability to send messages from the Facebook app in 2014 after launching Messenger. However, direct messaging is still alive and well in the Instagram app, even if it’s still absent from the Instagram website.

In the long term, Facebook intends to merge the messaging systems of Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook, allowing users on any platform to message those on another. With those big changes coming, this was potentially the right time to end Instagram’s standalone messaging app experiment.

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