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Facebook enables cross-app messaging on Instagram and Messenger

Published Sep 30th, 2020 6:06PM EDT
Facebook Messenger Instagram
Image: Facebook

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  • Facebook announced that it’s ready to merge Messenger chat with Instagram, allowing people to communicate seamlessly across platforms.
  • The move is part of Facebook’s bigger plan to unify Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
  • The Messenger-Instagram cross-platform messaging system will be available soon in a few unnamed countries, but users will have the ability to reject the update.

Mark Zuckerberg surprised the world in early 2019 when he laid out his plan to unify Facebook’s instant messaging apps and enable cross-platform functionality. This would make it possible for someone to keep in touch with friends and family without worrying about the app they need to text and call. WhatsApp users would talk to Instagram users and Facebook Messenger users without needing accounts on the other platforms. At the time, Facebook also confirmed that the underlying chat engine that will power this cross-platform functionality would offer end-to-end encryption. As it is right now, WhatsApp remains the only end-to-end encrypted chat app that Facebook owns.

Facebook on Tuesday announced the first step towards merging the three chat apps by allowing Facebook Messenger and Instagram users to talk to each other. Whether it’s regular instant messages, calls, and even Watch Together parties, Messenger and Instagram will support the other platform.

It’s not all good news, however. There’s no telling when WhatsApp integration will arrive. And the Messenger-Instagram chat is limited to a few countries that are not mentioned in the official announcement. Moreover, Facebook is using imagery that’s indicative of iPhone support for the feature, despite the clear preference for Android that comes from the top.

Messenger-Instagram Chat
Instagram update will allow users to opt-out of merging their Instagram chat experience with Messenger. Image source: Facebook

While it remains to be seen when Messenger and Instagram will get cross-platform support in the US and other markets, Facebook did reveal some of the new features coming to the apps. The Messenger app is easily the richer of the two when it comes to chat features, and Facebook says the “best of Messenger” will be available inside Instagram soon. Here’s what Facebook means by that:

  • Communicate Across Apps: Seamlessly connect with friends and family across Instagram and Messenger by using either app to send messages and join video calls.
  • Watch Together: Enjoy watching videos on Facebook Watch, IGTV, Reels (coming soon!), TV shows, movies, and more with friends and family during a video call.
  • Vanish Mode: Choose a mode where seen messages disappear after they’re seen or when you close the chat.
  • Selfie Stickers: Create a series of boomerang stickers with your selfie to use in conversation.
  • Chat Colors: Personalize your chats with fun color gradients.
  • Custom Emoji Reactions: Create a shortcut of your favorite emojis to react quickly to messages from friends.
  • Forwarding: Easily share great content with up to five friends or groups.
  • Replies: Respond directly to a specific message in your chat and keep the conversation flowing.
  • Animated Message Effects: Add visual flair to your message with animated send effects.
  • Message Controls: Decide who can message you directly, and who can’t message you at all.
  • Enhanced Reporting and Blocking Updates: Now you can report full conversations in addition to single messages on Instagram, and receive proactive blocking suggestions across Instagram and Messenger when you add your accounts in the new Accounts Center.

From the looks of it, the update that turns on the functionality will be optional on Instagram, although it’s likely that it will become the new default further down the line.

Facebook also says that users will be in control of their privacy and safety. They’ll be able to manage their privacy, “including whether message requests go to your Chats list, your Message Requests folder, or whether you receive them at all.” Facebook will also offer Instagram users a means to block suspicious activity and prevent unwanted messages.

Messenger-Instagram Chat
New privacy options that will govern the Messenger-Instagram cross-platform chat experience in Instagram. Image source: Facebook

There’s still no word on end-to-end encryption, and that’s probably a conversation Facebook will delay until it’s ready to merge Messenger-Instagram with WhatsApp. But this gigantic messaging endeavor had to start somewhere, and merging Messenger with Instagram first does make sense.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.