By Don Reisinger
December 7, 2017

As if you needed another way to communicate with your friends and family over social networks, Instagram has an option.

The Facebook-owned Instagram is working on a new app it’s calling Direct that would allow you to send private messages to others. The app, which will be made available starting on Thursday to Android and iOS users, could eventually replace the messaging tools built into Instagram and create another way to communicate through mobile apps.

The Verge earlier reported on the app.

Facebook currently operates two of the world’s most popular messaging apps in Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that both have more than a billion active users. It’s unclear how Direct would factor into that lineup and whether it would be a direct competitor.

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In an interview with The Verge, Instagram product manager Hemal Shah said that Instagram Direct could help the company “create the fastest and most creative space for private sharing when Direct is a camera-first, standalone app.”

According to The Verge, Direct opens in the phone’s camera app, allowing users to snap a photo or video or send a message to users.

Shah acknowledged to The Verge that private messaging hasn’t always been Instagram’s focus. But the company is seeing a growing number of people sending direct messages to one another and wants to provide a platform on which they can communicate. As the report notes, it’s similar to what Facebook did with its Messenger function in 2014, when it turned off chatting inside its main app and broke out the feature.

If you’re interested in trying out Direct, it’ll take some time. Instagram is testing the app in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay. The company reportedly hasn’t yet decided whether it should roll it out to other countries.

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