It’s painfully obvious that Instagram wants to watch Snapchat flame out into a pillar of dust. It has copied a number of its features, fine-tuning them and deploying them even better than Snapchat. And it looks like Instagram is back on its bullshit with a new standalone messaging app.
The app, Direct, is available now for both Android and iOS in six countries—Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay, the Verge reported. If you download Direct, your Instagram inbox will be scrubbed from the main app. Instead, you’ll have to DM your friends through Direct. While a standalone messaging app may not sound like a Snapchat rival at face value, it sure as hell is. Direct opens to the camera, just like Snapchat, and lets you slap some fun filters on your face before firing off a photo to your friends. The Verge reports that the app has three screens—the camera screen, a profile screen, and your inbox. And you don’t have to send photos; you can also just send your a message through the app.
“We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is an important part of that,” Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, told the Verge. “Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own. We can push the boundaries to create the fastest and most creative space for private sharing when Direct is a camera-first, standalone app.”
“Camera-first,” huh? That sure sounds a lot like Snapchat.
I can see why Instagram, owned by Facebook, would want to launch such an app. Users initially dragged Facebook for forcing a separate messaging service on them, but they’ve since come around. And the design of Direct seems to go after one of the few remaining remnants of Snapchat that people still turn to it for—sending each other photos of dumb shit and selfies. When Instagram launched Stories, people started migrating from Snapchat because, well, Instagram’s feature is just better. And now it seems Facebook hopes that Instagram can deliver an even better service for those moments you want to send some gratuitous snaps in private.
But, as someone who already uses Instagram direct messages to chat with their friends pretty regularly, this news exhausts me. I mostly use the DM feature on Instagram to send my friends photos I see on Instagram that we can laugh at, drag, or discuss. The idea of toggling between apps to do that seems like a waste of time. As a Snapchat-killer, I see the appeal in Direct. But as a messaging service, it feels superfluous.