The ability for Instagram and Messenger users to message or video chat with each other is currently being tested in select markets and will expand globally in the coming months. The company did not elaborate further at a media briefing, but it said people on Instagram will opt-in to the new experience. It began testing the functionality this summer but is now rolling it out more broadly.
The company declined to provide a timeline for when the same functionality would be available for WhatsApp.
When asked in a briefing with reporters ahead of Wednesday’s announcement about how difficult it would be to undo the integration if regulators wanted to separate its business, Instagram’s head of product, Vishal Shah, said the effort was a “massive investment from an infrastructure perspective.”
“The back end systems that we were sitting on top of were not the same. We had to get to a place where they were similar infrastructure. We had to move features and important things over across both Facebook Messenger, as well as on [Instagram] Direct,” Shah said, but he also noted that a lot of the “underlying architecture” between Messenger and Instagram is already shared, such as advertising and commerce.
In addition to being able to chat with each other, Instagram and Messenger will also get some upgrades. Users who opt into the new experience can send “selfie stickers” — a hybrid of Boomerang, selfies and stickers — watch IGTV or Facebook Watch videos together, and turn on a new “Vanish Mode,” in which messages automatically disappear after they’re viewed.
When asked about the possibility that cross-app communication could open the door to harassment, Instagram responded that users can block someone across apps. Additionally, new privacy settings have been added so users can decide who can contact them, and Instagrammers can decide to not receive messages from Facebook users, and vice versa.