But a comment from product manager Hemal Shah made it sound like the company had already made up its mind.
"Direct has grown within Instagram over the past four years, but we can make it even better if it stands on its own". If Instagram users want to send or read private messages, they will now have to open the Direct app. Direct comes with three sections: the inbox, the camera and the profile screen.
Direct is now available for download as part of a test for Android and iOS in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay, and the reason for this move is to get more people using Instagram's direct messaging service while letting the core Instagram app be a place to share your photos and videos with the entire world. You'll have the option of taking either a photo or video and adding your own effects and filters, with some even being exclusive to the app including a superimposing mouth and censor bleeps at random times.
An account and settings option will live to the camera's left, while swiping the other way will present you with the list of chats, exactly as it works on Instagram's main app now.
If you're able to download Direct, you should note that it removes the inbox from the mainstream messaging app.
Direct is available from today in Israel, Italy, Chile, Portugal, Turkey, and Uruguay, on both Android and iOS.
Instagram calls Direct a camera-first messaging service, but it's still unclear what path it is going to take (if it gets out of this experimental phase at all). When that happens, users can keep swiping right to open the main Instagram app.
By creating the standalone Direct app, Instagram is doing the same thing that Facebook did with Messenger.
Remember how upset people were when Facebook started requiring everyone to install the separate Messenger app? If Instagram decides to release Direct globally, it could become the next big private messaging platform right next to Facebook's Messenger.