Instagram made some big changes recently. It replaced the “new post” button on the home screen with a link to its TikTok clone Reels. And, in an affront to everyone’s muscle memory, it swapped out the notifications tab for a link to…shopping.
There’s another change that you might have overlooked. The paper airplane icon for Instagram DMs is no more. It’s been replaced with the logo for Facebook Messenger, because Instagram DMs are now integrated with Messenger.
What the heck does that mean? If you only just updated Instagram recently, you might have gotten an additional pop-up notification asking if you would like to “update” to the “new way to message on Instagram.” If Instagram users choose to enable the change, they can send a DM to someone on Facebook within Instagram, even if that person doesn’t have an account on Instagram. The same is true the other way around.
Instagram actually announced this change in September and it’s been rolling it out in the intervening months.
You have the ability to say no to the update, and you can also customize your privacy settings to decide whether the messages of people from Facebook go to your main “Chats” inbox, or if they go to “Requests.”
There are other new possibilities in Messenger on Instagram, like assigning colors and images to chats, forwarding messages, creating custom stickers, and more.
Facebook first confirmed its plan to integrate its various chat platforms in January 2019. It explained the move as a way to ensure privacy: By merging Messenger, Instagram DMs, and WhatsApp, it could theoretically afford end-to-end encryption across platforms.
However, some saw more to the move than that. For one, it’s a way to consolidate the profiles and behaviors of users across platforms, driving deeper insights for advertising purposes. Additionally, it could help Facebook avoid antitrust crackdowns by the government. A critique of Facebook is that it buys up its competitors. Intertwining Instagram and Facebook more tightly helps the company argue that it’s all one platform, and thus harder to separate.
You can also bet that there’s a business upside to the merge. Facebook has been investing in messaging tools for businesses, allowing businesses to manage customer service needs via DMs, and even advertise within Facebook Messenger. Our money’s on the same ability coming to Instagram soon.