Instagram is launching a new app to replace the messaging feature within its core photo sharing platform. Direct might become available worldwide next year. Image: Instagram

Instagram rolled out on Thursday a standalone messaging application called Direct. The limited release is a first test exclusively available in six countries, but available for both Android and iOS users. People who download and install Direct will have their inbox removed from the main Instagram app.

The strategic move from Facebook might or might not have a purpose to further cement their dominant position in the social media space and, why not, finally kill off Snapchat. The app is reportedly quite similar yet simple and attractive, a winning formula that Snap has yet to crack. It also has four exclusive filters.

Snapchat has been recently struggling with profitability in the face of constant Facebook and Instagram updates that keep upping the ante in the game for market share dominance. Direct could be an additional threat they don’t need as they rush to overhaul the popular app.

How does Direct work and where does it leave Instagram?

As a camera-first app, Direct follows the same design lines as its sister app and parent platform Instagram. Upon launch, it opens directly on the camera, and from there you can swipe right to access your inbox and conversations or swipe left to access your settings and other functions.

There are a couple of additional things you can do, but the main app experience is just those three screens. On the right screen you can also switch accounts and access some sections of Instagram, while the main screen doesn’t necessarily require you to take photos or shoot video; you can write messages too.

However, the most conflicting aspect of Direct is that it involves its separation from the complete Instagram experience users know and love. To remedy this, developers have integrated the two apps seamlessly, providing access to each other if you continue to swipe right on either of them.

Snapchat could be in trouble if Direct becomes a thing

Of course, the idea of a standalone messaging app that keeps it simple yet engaging is nothing short of attractive to Instagram and Facebook. It might prove troublesome at first, as it happened with Messenger, but as long as they don’t make the same mistakes and calm down users’ pushback, it will do fine on its own.

For Snap, though, this means nothing but trouble. CEO Evan Spiegel recently reported ongoing losses, and a bad investment in Spectacles mean they have thousands of unsold devices sitting in warehouses with nobody interested in buying them.

To top it all off, Snapchat is reportedly undergoing massive, core changes in an attempt to simplify the user experience and gain engagement beyond its primarily young audience. Integration with ads has also proved to be a challenge, but the company needs to step up if it is to compete with not one but two Instagram apps come next year.

Source: The Verge