Instagram merges with Messenger for easier cross-platform messaging

Instagram now offers cross-app messaging and calling with Messenger.

The plan to merge the two services was first announced by parent-company Facebook in early 2019, with today’s official announcement coming after a trial period that started in mid-August, 2020.

It means that users of Instagram and Messenger will be able to exchange direct messages, photos, and videos with friends and family without hopping in and out of different apps, or downloading new ones.

The change is currently being rolled out on Instagram and Messenger in a number of countries around the world, with a global expansion coming soon.

The social networking giant also intends to merge the messaging services of another of its acquisitions, WhatsApp, in the near future, and add secure end-to-end encryption between all three.

“People are communicating in private spaces now more than ever,” Facebook wrote in a post announcing the update. “More than a billion people already use Messenger as a place to share, hang out, and express themselves with family and friends. That’s why we’re connecting the Messenger and Instagram experience to bring some of the best Messenger features to Instagram — so you have access to the best messaging experience, no matter which app you use.”

No download is needed, though for the time being at least, users have to opt in to use the new system. At some point, we can expect that everyone will be automatically moved to the new experience.

Facebook is offering a bunch of new features to encourage people to make the switch, among them access to so-called “selfie stickers” and a new way to watch videos with friends and family during a call, while a new “vanish mode” lets you set messages to automatically disappear after they’ve been seen.

Explaining why it decided to merge the services, Facebook said its own research found that “four out of five people who use messaging apps in the U.S. say that spending more time connecting with friends and family on these apps is important to them, yet one out of three people sometimes find it difficult to remember where to find a certain conversation thread,” adding that the new feature will make it “even easier to stay connected without thinking about which app to use to reach your friends and family.”

When the plan for the merger was first announced last year, critics suggested Facebook was using it as a way to shield it from calls to be broken up over antitrust issues. But Zuckerberg has always maintained that merging the services is more about improving the overall user experience and to enhance privacy protection.

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