After experimenting with a dedicated messaging app, Instagram is shuttering its stand-alone Direct app. Tests of moving Direct to a separate app never reached Messenger-level status, which likely mixed with Facebook’s new focus on privacy and potentially merging messaging tools in the decision to shut down the separate app. Instagram confirmed that the Direct app will be shut down over the next month. (The messaging features remain intact inside the Instagram app.)
Instagram started the Direct app as a test in limited markets in 2017, including Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. At the time, the company aimed to bring features not available inside the Instagram app into the dedicated messaging platform. Direct opened straight to the camera, much like Snapchat. The app also had filters that weren’t available inside Instagram. While the Direct messaging feature never left Instagram, users that downloaded the test no longer had the messaging options inside Instagram.
Instagram is now alerting users via an in-app pop-up message that the app will no longer be supported sometime in the next month. Because messages will automatically revert back to their original home inside the Instagram app, the company says users of the app don’t have to do anything to save conversations.
In a statement, Instagram said that the Direct app test is being rolled back, while future updates will focus on the messaging option still built into the Instagram app. While Direct never made it out of testing, Instagram used the app to test other messaging features like web-based access to messages.
The news comes a month after Facebook began testing adding Messenger back into the original Facebook app. The switch to a stand-alone messaging app frustrated many users back in 2014, but allowed for more features than what could be built into the Facebook app.
Following several privacy scandals, Facebook is now shifting its focus toward privacy. As part of that shift, the company aims to allow users to send messages across its family of apps, which also includes the encrypted WhatsApp. While the stand-alone Direct app never seemed to gain the traction of Messenger, that new focus could be one of the reasons the company is abandoning the tests.