Facebook slides into Instagram’s DMs with cross-platform messaging

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It can already be confusing to try and draw a line between Instagram and its parent, Facebook. The latest change affecting the companies won’t help with that. However, it could make it easier for people to communicate.

Facebook is starting to incorporate features from its Messenger platform into Instagram’s app. This gives users the ability to send messages cross-platform between the two. It is the first of many changes meant to blur the line between Facebook and Instagram.

Sharing Across an Empire

To be clear, Facebook and Instagram aren’t merging. Though that can’t be ruled out as something that will happen in the future, it isn’t today’s problem. Facebook staffers emphasized this fact during a press briefing.

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Instead, the social media giant is working to combine the messaging features of its two most popular apps. Facebook has been testing the feature since this summer and is now ready to start rolling out the update to all Instagram users in the coming months.

Users who choose to update will be able to interact with people using Facebook Messenger that don’t have an Instagram account. This also works the other way around.

In a sense, the changes make Facebook’s messaging features similar to email. At least that’s what Loredena Crisan, the vice president of design for Messenger, thinks. She says, “Just like today you could talk to a Gmail account if you have a Yahoo account, these accounts will be able to talk to each other through the shared protocol that is Messenger.”

Of course, the integration also brings some notable changes. For one, Instagram doesn’t make people use their real names when signing up for an account. Facebook does. Users running an Instagram account that isn’t already linked with their name might not want to change that.

Fortunately, it shouldn’t be an issue. Users will be able to disable cross-platform messaging if they prefer anonymity over convenience. Those who want to keep their chats in one place can do so—at least for now.

Other New Features

Although cross-platform messaging is worthy of headlines, Instagram’s messaging tool is getting some other new features from Messenger as well. One of the most notable is Vanish Mode. Users can choose how long their messages stick around after they’re seen before they disappear. Yes, it’s like Snapchat.

Instagram is also getting a variety of visual enhancements for its chat features. Users will be able to create selfie stickers, customize chat colors, create custom emoji reactions, and add animated effects to outgoing messages.

Another feature arriving from Facebook is Watch Together. This lets users watch videos in sync while on a video call. That is helpful in today’s era of social distancing. It’s similar to what users find on streaming services like Disney+ or with third-party extensions like Netflix Party.

Finally, the update gives users new ways to block and report unwanted messages. It will soon be possible to report entire conversations instead of single messages.

Although updating is optional, Facebook certainly hopes that the many new features it is introducing will encourage users to do so.

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