Facebook was so successful at forcing Messenger on you that it’s doing it again with Instagram

It’s multiplying.
It’s multiplying.
Image: Reuters/Thomas White
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It’s as if having three Instagram apps on your phone wasn’t already enough.

Instagram is testing a new standalone messaging app, called Direct, The Verge reported today (Dec. 7). It’ll pull out the direct-messaging part of the main app into a separate app, which will just let you send photos, videos, or text messages to your Instagram contacts.

This test sounds a lot like what Facebook did with Messenger over the last few years. It forced anyone that wanted to message someone on Facebook to download a separate app. Messenger now has well over 1 billion monthly users, and Facebook has started to test injecting ads into the chat app, which could become a significant source of revenue, assuming the ads don’t drive all of its users crazy.

Instagram confirmed it was testing a new app to Quartz. “We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is a big part of that. To make it easier and more fun for people to connect in this way, we are beginning to test Direct—a camera-first app that connects seamlessly back to Instagram,” a representative added.

By separating Direct into its own app, Facebook can potentially pull off the same coup for Instagram, creating a new channel to shove advertising in front of users’ eyeballs. It’s also the culmination of its strategy of completely ripping off Snapchat after the company snubbed a $3 billion takeover offer in 2013. Facebook has failed to attract younger users to its main apps, so it’s attempted to either copy or buy apps that they are using, like Snapchat, or TBH—an app that teens use to anonymously compliment each other—that Facebook purchased earlier this year.

Over the last year, Facebook has injected just about every feature that makes Snapchat special into Instagram. It’s introduced daily “Stories”—short video or photo posts that users can broadcast to their followers that disappear after 24 hours—as well as filters, lenses, and stickers. It’s boasting that it has millions more users posting on Stories than Snapchat has at all. According to The Verge, the new Direct app mirrors the structure and purpose of Snapchat, minus the content from publishers and brands.

It’s unclear if this is the final nail in Snapchat’s coffin, which has struggled greatly as a public company since its IPO earlier this year, but one thing is clear: Facebook, should it choose to, has found yet another place to show us ads for venture-backed toothbrushes, millennial erectile-dysfunction pills, and viscous nutrient goop.