In yet another attempt to unify its various properties into some writhing Akira-esque mass, Facebook announced today that Messenger and Instagram are, for all intents and purposes, merging. Chat features from Messenger will become available to Instagram users, and folks on either service will be able to reach out to one another without needing to download a separate app.
“Today, we’re announcing an update to Instagram DMs by introducing a new Messenger experience on the app,” wrote Adam Mosseri and Stan Chudnovsky—the respective heads of Instagram and Messenger—in a blog post earlier today.
“People are communicating in private spaces now more than ever. More than a billion people already use Messenger as a place to share, hang out and express themselves with family and friends,” they added. “That’s why we’re connecting the Messenger and Instagram experience to bring some of the best Messenger features to Instagram—so you have access to the best messaging experience, no matter which app you use.”
Apparently, this “best messaging experience” also includes cribbing a few features from Facebook’s competitors. Among the ten new features that are being rolled out as part of the update, many of them feel... somewhat familiar. “Watch Together,” which lets folks watch “trending videos” with friends while chatting over video, sounds like an Intagramified version of Discord’s screen sharing feature. “Vanish mode,” which sets messages to automatically disappear once they’ve been seen, seems to be a flat out clone of the vanishing texts most people have come to associate with Snapchat, or hell, Signal. (For what it’s worth though, Instagram has been testing disappearing messages in one form or another for the better part of four years.)
Obvious dupes notwithstanding, the Instagram-Messenger duo is an idea that Facebook’s been hinting at for a while now. Back in August, some folks who had the Instagram app installed on their Android or iOS devices received notice that they’d soon be able to use the app’s chat boxes for hitting up “friends who use Facebook,” rather than strictly within Instagram proper.
As for the rationale behind this slow shift towards singularity, different people will give you different reasons. Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t been shy about touting his pivot to a messaging-first company as a means to maintain user privacy. Critics have pointed out that privacy cuts both ways, and encryption would effectively shield Zuckerberg and his ilk from government scrutiny. But the blog post offers a much more practical set of reasons for merging the best parts of Messenger and Instagram:
In our research, four out of five people who use messaging apps in the US say that spending more time connecting with friends and family on these apps is important to them, yet one out of three people sometimes find it difficult to remember where to find a certain conversation thread. With this update, it will be even easier to stay connected without thinking about which app to use to reach your friends and family.
This confusion is understandable—and also entirely the result of Facebook’s own strategy. A little more than a year after acquiring Instagram, it added the photostream app with a direct message functionality. A year later it bought messaging app WhatsApp—the same year Messenger was broken out of Facebook proper, forcing users to download a separate app.
According to the company, this new hybrid messaging service (which does not yet support cross-WhatsApp communication) is being rolled out to “a few countries around the world,” at first, before expanding globally.