Facebook Inc is going to update Instagram today, and the new features will make the former photo-focused site seem more and more like a bland, do-everything social network. That appears to be part of the firm’s path to grow the second biggest US social network. If user metrics are right, that plan is working.
Today will see Facebook bring new features to Instagram Direct, a feature that Instagram launched in 2013 in order to make sharing photos with a select group of people simple. The update will go further than that, allowing the image-based network to become a full-blown message service.
Instagram follows Facebook
Instagram Direct will now allow more than just comments on photos. It will bring threaded discussions that allow you to reply directly to another user. That means conversation, and it’s a massive change in the way Facebook has treated its users through Instagram since acquiring the firm back in 2012.
Ann Baum, one of those working on the project said, “We wanted to make a place for conversations to keep going, to enable that back-and-forth. Now if you want to respond and send a new photo, you have a place to do that.”
This is the second move toward making Instagram more open and flexible in the same number of weeks. Last week the firm announced that it would allow its users to upload landscape and portrait photos and abandon the square shape that made Instagram what it is today.
Facebook builds a second Facebook
Instagram is the second most used social network in the US according to a recent report from Pew Research. The platform comes in ahead of Twitter by a slight margin. There’s one major difference between the second and third biggest platforms, though. Instagram is still growing, and Facebook wants to keep it that way.
Nothing signals the death of a social network more clearly than a slow down in growth. Facebook’s core is now slowing down. That’s expected of a firm that has more than a billion of the world’s people online in a single day. Mark Zuckerberg and his team are looking for Instagram to pick up the slack.
Right now that seems to involve putting more and more Facebook-like features onto the Instagram platform. It’s still going to have its characteristic style, but it’s going to put fewer and fewer limits in the way of new users.
Instagram Direct is just the latest move in that direction. The platform will never copy its design language from Facebook , but it will try to ape features that users find missing when they dedicate time to the photo-sharing site.
User growth is king at Instagram. If Facebook needs to build a fully-featured social network in order to keep people engaged it’s going to do just that.
Wall Street is eagerly awaiting the appearance of ads en masse on Instagram. As users get more engaged those ads will be worth a lot more money. That’s something those holding shares in Facebook need to see in order to support the firm’s whopping valuation.