Instagram now offers cross-app messaging and calling with Messenger.
The plan to merge the two services was first announced by parent-company Facebook in early 2019, with today’s official announcement coming after a trial period that started in mid-August, 2020.
It means that users of Instagram and Messenger will be able to exchange direct messages, photos, and videos with friends and family without hopping in and out of different apps, or downloading new ones.
The change is currently being rolled out on Instagram and Messenger in a number of countries around the world, with a global expansion coming soon.
The social networking giant also intends to merge the messaging services of another of its acquisitions, WhatsApp, in the near future, and add secure end-to-end encryption between all three.
“People are communicating in private spaces now more than ever,” Facebook wrote in a post announcing the update. “More than a billion people already use Messenger as a place to share, hang out and express themselves with family and friends. 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.”
No download is needed, though for the time being at least, users have to opt in to use the new system. At some point, we can expect that everyone will be automatically moved to the new experience.
Facebook is offering a bunch of new features to encourage people to make the switch, among them access to so-called “selfie stickers” and a new way to watch videos with friends and family during a call, while a new “vanish mode” lets you set messages to automatically disappear after they’ve been seen.
Explaining why it decided to merge the services, Facebook
Facebook has taken its biggest step yet in integrating its various messaging platforms, allowing select users on Messenger and Instagram to message one another app to app. In addition to the launch of cross-platform messaging, Instagram is also getting a major overhaul of its DM system, which will be expanded with features taken from Messenger.
New Instagram messaging tools include vanishing messages, selfie stickers, custom emoji, chat colors, new ways to block unwanted messages, and the introduction of Messenger’s Watch Together feature, which lets you watch videos with friends during a video call.
Users will be able to reject the update if they choose, but Facebook will no doubt be betting that access to new features will encourage them to say yes. In addition to cross-platform messaging, users on Instagram and Messenger can also search for profiles across both apps simultaneously. Users can opt out of these features if they wish.
Exactly when and where Instagram and Messenger cross-platform messaging will be available is unclear, though. According to CNN, the feature is currently being “tested in select markets and will expand globally in the coming months.” There’s no public timeline on when Facebook might also begin integrating its other messaging behemoth, WhatsApp.
The news is part of an ambitious plan outlined by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019 to transition his social media empire from one founded on public spaces to one with a greater focus on private communication. As Zuckerberg explained in 2019, “private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication.” By integrating messages on its various apps, each of which has more than 1 billion users, Facebook hopes to capture as much of this market as possible.