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Instagram Direct brings DMs to the desktop

Instagram is testing a new direct message app for the web. Jane Manchun Wong, a reverse engineer pro broke the news to TechCrunch. Wong discovered the mobile-centric app was testing a web version internally by messing around with the URL structure.

Here’s what it looks like:

Instagram DM app preview

Weirdly, some apps (Instagram…) still don’t provide the cross-platform functionality that has become par for the course.

Instagram, long the mobile-only holdout, seems to be following WhatsApp and Facebook, experimenting with a standalone DM app — available on both web and mobile devices.

What will we get from Instagram Direct?

No stories, no pics here. Instagram Direct won’t bring the eye candy to the table like Instagram proper.

Sure, Instagram is a photo app, but the web version will be a standalone chat app, no filters or uploads included.

It seems that the main idea here is to make it easy to respond to text-based messages, as most of us can type faster on a keyboard than the phone.

There are also rumors floating the web about potential support for the iPad. Which again, likely won’t include bringing the full Instagram set-up to the tablet (likely because they take bad pictures?), but presents another way to chat with friends and customers.

Unified messaging with WhatsApp and Facebook is a driving factor

Instagram’s move toward more desktop functionality comes after the big, controversial announcement that Facebook would be combining WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct by the end of this year.

The idea is, the apps will continue to function on their own, but on the backend, the three will be integrated — so users can communicate across platforms. But, as the New York Times reported last month, unifying the backends of the chat apps will require engineers to completely reconfigure the technical infrastructure of all three from the ground up.

Of course, people have not been happy about the announcement, citing privacy issues and security concerns. And the rollout of Instagram Direct represents progress in this whole unification effort.

Businesses can already respond to Instagram DMs via Facebook

A few weeks back, Instagram debuted web-based DMs, by way of Facebook.

Right now, you’ll need to have a business account to access DMs online. But access isn’t limited to a small group of beta testers. Anyone with a business page and an active Instagram can take advantage of the “all-in-one” messaging system.

Facebook recently announced that they’d be rolling out the feature in combination with the Facebook inbox. While it’s not a standalone app, users in the US and Brazil can now toggle between inboxes.

The Instagram marketing platform Later.com recently shared a post that showcased Instagram Direct in action. As you can see below, both Messenger and Instagram Direct show up when you click on the Facebook Inbox.

Instagram direct for business

Facebook says that this allows businesses to manage their conversations and respond to customer questions and comments faster than they can on mobile. Makes sense. The fact that Instagram has been clinging to mobile-only seems a bit outdated.

These days, we’ve grown to expect our apps to work on any platform — we’ve entered the era of cross-platform convenience.

Facebook stands to profit from web SMS

Facebook is promoting integration as a way to bring more convenience to the platform — which it does. But, the real benefit for Facebook is two-fold — one, as we mentioned, it’s a step closer to uniting WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook.

Two — it’s an opportunity to monetize. Facebook doesn’t directly monetize Instagram Direct right now.

However, an SMS-supported, cross-platform DM app presents a new platform for advertisers to push out ads while users wait for the next message to arrive.

Still, the promise of convenience hangs in the air. And, while Instagram Direct won’t come with photos, stories, and hashtags, it will make responding to messages a little easier.

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