Facebook has announced a raft of new features for Messenger and Instagram Direct, including cross-app group chats, so you can engage in group discussions between the two apps, new group typing indicators to boost engagement, and polls in your IG DMs.
The main addition is Instagram-Messenger cross-app group chats – as explained by Facebook:
“Last year, we announced cross-app messaging between Messenger and Instagram. With this update, you’ll be able to start group chats between your Instagram and Messenger contacts”
So, functionally, it’s not a major change, given that the option to chat across the two apps between individuals has been available since last September. But it does add another element, while it’s also another step in Facebook’s broader messaging integration plan, which, eventually, will also include WhatsApp, enabling users of each individual platform to message others on whatever app they choose.
That will also necessitate full encryption of Instagram and Messenger DMs, in line with WhatsApp’s security defaults, which looks set to be a bigger hill to climb for the company.
Various governments have raised concerns about Facebook’s push to add more encryption options into its messaging tools, but with WhatsApp users already jittery about any potential data-sharing back to Facebook, there won’t be any other option, Facebook will either need to provide full encryption, in all of its messaging tools, or abandon its integration process.
It seems determined to push ahead, with The Social Network announcing additional encryption elements for Messenger just last month, so you can expect that to become a much bigger point of debate moving forward, as Facebook looks to take the next, and biggest steps in the larger project.
As you can see in the above image, Facebook’s also adding polls In Instagram DMs, which will also be accessible in cross-app group chats.
“The fan-favorite Messenger feature, polls, is now available in your Instagram DMs and cross-app group chats, making it easier for the group to decide which new show is most binge-worthy or which restaurant you all go to next weekend.”
That could provide another engagement option, while the cross-app functionality is, again, another big step in solidifying its integration effort, and melding together its full suite of messaging tools.
Facebook’s also adding new group typing indicators, which will show when your friends are typing at the same time.
As you can see, you’ll now be able to see when several people are typing at once, which could add to the discussion buzz in active rooms.
Facebook’s also adding new chat themes on both Messenger and IG, as well as an ‘Astrology art suite’, including backgrounds and new AR effects.
Astrology has become increasingly popular over the past year, with Snapchat also adding new astrology integrations to boost engagement.
Finally, Facebook will now enable Watch Together from the Instagram Feed, providing another way to spark in-chat discussion and engagement.
“You can now watch your favorite content directly from your Instagram feed together with your friends. Just start a video chat within Instagram, scroll to the post you want to share then click on the share button and Watch Together”
That could be particularly beneficial for IGTV, if it helps to boost viewing activity in both apps.
While short video continues to rise as a key content option, private messaging is, for most people, the primary social connection platform of choice, as we’ve gradually moved away from social broadcasting, and more towards interacting in smaller, more intimate groups.
Really, that’s always been the case, with people choosing to share more with their closest friends. But amid increasing division, and toxicity on social networks, as well as the negative impacts of ‘cancel culture’ and other response behaviors as a result of public posting, more people have shifted back to smaller groups, and sharing with like-minded, accepting people that they know and trust.
Which is where Facebook holds significant sway, given it controls two of the world’s biggest messaging apps. It hasn’t worked out how to monetize them effectively just yet, but additions like this lean into the broader messaging trend, while it’s also looking to facilitate more business messaging behavior through additions like tap to message ads on Instagram and the expansion of WhatsApp’s business tools.
At the same time, the gradual integration of its messaging apps could also, theoretically at least, make Facebook harder to break up, if, at some stage, that was deemed to be the best way forward for the industry.
That proposal has been raised several times, in various antitrust investigations, with Facebook’s acquisitions of both WhatsApp and Instagram cited as examples of the company utilizing its scale to maintain market dominance.
If that were ever proven, in a legal sense, Facebook could be forced to divest both apps – but if both of these apps become part of a broader Facebook platform, operating via a single back-end, maybe, that simply would not be possible. That could also be why Facebook has added Facebook branding to both apps in recent years, despite the potential negative connotations of such in both cases.
Whatever the logic, Facebook does seem determined to push ahead with its full integration plan, and the expanded cross-linkage of Messenger and IG Direct is another small step in that direction.