Instagram is simplifying its messaging features today so that all conversations wind up in the same place.
Until now, permanent and ephemeral messages would appear in two separate spots inside Instagram Direct: ephemeral at the top of the screen, permanent at the bottom. But starting today, ephemeral messages will begin appearing directly inside of permanent chat threads. They’ll still disappear once the photo or video has been viewed, but there’ll be a little note mentioning that something has been shared.
The intention is to make it easier for people to have an ongoing conversation, even if that conversation includes a lot of disappearing messages.
Instagram only added ephemeral messages to Direct back in November, so this isn’t some huge, long-awaited change. But it suggests that the more traditional style of messaging was working better for people — and, on a note we can all be grateful for, it means that Instagram Direct no longer has its own Stories bar, since that’s where ephemeral photo and video messages used to appear.
Generally though, it seems like Instagram Stories and ephemeral messaging have gotten a lot more people to use the app as a messenger. Instagram says that Direct is now up to 375 million monthly users, up from just 300 million in November. Back in August, when Stories launched, the feature was at 250 million monthly users, so it’s seen a huge amount of growth this year.
Instagram seems to see photos and videos as the primary driver of communication, as it’s making one other small change to Direct’s interface: the “new message” button at the bottom of the screen is being replaced with a big blue “camera” button.
While this is by and large great news for Facebook — it suggests the company’s battle against Snapchat (by cloning all of the app’s best features) is working — it also shows more and more of Facebook’s content going ephemeral. That may be good news for growth in the short term, but in the long run, it may mean an emptier network that’s harder to monetize and gives people fewer reasons to return.