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Meta Tests DMs on Threads via Instagram Inbox

Good news: You’ll soon be able to send DMs on Threads.

Bad news: They won’t be via a dedicated Threads inbox.

This week, Meta launched a new live test of DMs on Threads, with some users seeing a new “Message” CTA button on Threads profiles.

Threads DMs

As you can see in this example, shared by Chris Messina, the new Threads DM option will technically enable you to send messages to users via the app. But as you can see in the bottom prompt, that message won’t be via Threads itself. Instead, you’ll actually be sending your DM to their Instagram inbox.

Which is not so bad. I mean, it’s still a DM option within Threads, providing an advanced connection process within the app. But many will be disappointed that Threads isn’t getting its own DM inbox, which, as a replica of Twitter, would bring it more into line with Twitter’s functionality, and make it easier to use in a broader range of applications.

But that’s unlikely to be on the cards at present.

In November last year, amid speculation about Threads potentially getting DMs, Threads chief Adam Mosseri poured cold water on the concept, explaining that:

The Threads app is built on top of the Instagram app, which is likely why you’re seeing [back end code relating to DMs]. We’re not building DMs into Threads.

Pretty definitive, and really, it does make sense why Meta’s not looking to add a new messaging product, given the years-long effort that it’s undertaken, thus far, to integrate its messaging products into a single back-end infrastructure.

Back in 2019, Meta announced its plan to integrate Messenger, Instagram Direct, and WhatsApp into a single, interoperable inbox, accessible via any app. That program has been in development ever since, and while Meta has faced some opposition to certain elements of that push (most notably encryption by default in all of its messaging products), it has now seemingly, cleared the way for the next stage.

Which is why you’re now seeing the broader roll out of encryption within Messenger DMs.

Given that this initiative is still ongoing, adding a whole other DM element into the mix could complicate matters further, and as such, it makes sense that Meta’s looking to use the Instagram inbox as a proxy for Threads messages instead.

But it also maintains the connection between Instagram and Threads, which, if Threads is to become the next billion-user platform, is probably not sustainable in the longer term.

Really, both apps serve a very different purpose, and the profiles and topics that people follow in each are logically also going to be very different. So they probably need to be separated, rather than having Threads as an offshoot of IG, but there’s also logic in building the app off of Instagram’s audience, as opposed to going it alone.

Does that mean that, in the long term, we’ll eventually get Threads DMs separate from IG?

That still seems difficult, given Meta’s messaging integration plan. And with speculation that Meta has sought to merge its messaging features in order to make it impossible to divest Instagram and WhatsApp if compelled to do so, which is still a possibility amid an ongoing FTC challenge, the broader machinations at play do make it seem like a separate Threads inbox is a limited possibility.

But maybe, if Threads eventually gets big enough to appoint its own, separate CEO, and it splits away from IG, that might still happen. Though I’d expect that it won’t even be a consideration till Threads reaches at least 500 million users.

So, DMs on Threads are coming, but not really. But still functionally, in a basic sense.  

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