According to a report from Gigaom, Instagram is working on its next big feature: Messaging. “Well-placed sources tell us that the company is gearing up to launch new private messaging features inside its still red-hot photo and video sharing service,” the report reads. “It is also experimenting with the idea of group messaging, our source tells us.”
While Instagram has found ample success being the fairly simple, single-focus app that it is, even it cannot resist the Snapchat effect. The lure of somehow grabbing on to surging success of messaging apps can’t be ignored by anyone, even a network so dedicated to only doing one thing – sharing visual stories – and doing it well.
There’s a good and bad side to this; the good being that messaging is fun and interactive, and being able to do this all within one very well-used app is a benefit. You don’t have to jump out of Instagram to send a messaging to someone, you can just do it there. And the ability to perhaps share a private photo moment with someone – filters and all – is a nice addition.
The bad, of course, is that diversifying your product doesn’t always have a positive effect on the user experience. There is something to be said for the simplicity of Instagram; it’s not trying to be anything else other than what it is: A way to capture, filter, share, and look at photos. Messaging would make this a fundamentally different place – a louder place, with more text and talking than images and looking.
What’s unique about Instagram is that it’s a very interactive app, but in a very passive way. We are often logged in to it and just scrolling through our feeds, occasionally Liking and commenting photos, but the “passiveness” of just looking feels active. While scrolling through a feed of tweets or Facebook posts can get old fast, taking in the visuals of Instagram always feels a little new.
This isn’t to say that messaging will ruin a good thing, but it will certainly change it – perhaps even just by indicating that Instagram is diverting from its overwhelming simplicity and looking to accessorize its platform with more features … and there are a few that are certainly missing. (Or maybe they just aren’t there.)
More tailored discovery
While the Explore tab lets you search the app by users and hashtags, as well as see what’s trending, you can’t engage in very detailed search. You can’t look for people or photos by location, and there’s no way to search by image content (unless you trust hashtags, which can certainly lead you astray).
Right now, your privacy options on Instagram are “all” or “none.” You either are private and only allow people who you let follow you see your pictures, or everyone can see everything. There could be an introduction of friend lists, or a choice to make some photos public and others private.
You know how sometimes you log in, and it’s clear one of your friends had a fun night – because you’re greeted to 10 pictures from one person that were taken over the course of four hours? An album grouping feature could indicate there are more photos behind the one that shows up in your feed, and keep from overwhelming the whole stream.
The print button
It’s already been wondered about: When is Instagram going to cash in on the immense popularity of printing its photos onto nearly any material? Partnering with outlets like Casetagram and Prinstagram and adding a print button to speed the whole process up is just good business.