Instagram looking to bring direct messages to the web

A recent Twitter post has confirmed that social network Instagram is currently testing a web-based version of its direct messaging functionality. If implemented this would allow users to send direct messages to one another without the use of the mobile app, a significant shift in how the platform may be used.

The Twitter post emerged earlier today from mobile app researcher and reverse engineering specialist Jane Manchun Wong who was able to bypass loose security and gain access to the testing site. Wong posted several screenshots of the functionality, accessing it through web-based browsing on both a desktop computer and mobile device. According to Wong the system is currently being tested internally by staff with no current wide launch time set.

Currently, if Instagram is accessed via a web browser users are unable to do many of the things the app allows for, including uploading photos and sending direct messages to other users. The update to Instagram’s direct message system would make it one of the only major elements of the app available to users using web-based access to the site. This puts the web-based Instagram on the back foot compared to other major apps which allow for mobile abilities to be used on desktops, such as Facebook’s stories.

Instagram has also soft-launched a standalone messaging app called Direct. The app is currently being tested across six different countries and seems to operate in the same way as Snapchat, opening to the camera before allowing access to a direct message functionality. Direct is not the first time Instagram has copied Snapchat’s homework either, as the Instagram and Messenger ‘Stories’ option is functionally very similar to a Snapchat Story.

This news comes as the direct messaging landscape is set to receive a major shakeup with Facebook looking to unify Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram DM’s into a single infrastructure. Reportedly the three apps will continue to operate as separate software but the backend will be consolidated, giving Facebook an unprecedented level of control over more than 2.6 billion users. The impact of this unification remains to be seen but this news may have played a role in the company’s latest testing.

Instagram has offered no official response to the leaked testing.