Meta is testing direct messages in Threads, but with an Instagram twist

Now rolling out to a small set of users, the feature lets you send a message from Threads to Instagram.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Threads app
Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Threads users who want a direct messaging feature might be getting one they didn't exactly ask for. Meta is testing a sort of DM feature in which users can send messages, but only to Instagram users. Spotted by Engadget, the new messaging option has popped up for some Threads users who say that a "Message" button has replaced the usual "Mention" option at the top of the other users' profiles.

Threads has always required an Instagram account, and the two Meta-owned platforms share and sync certain features and options. Unfortunately, this means that Threads sometimes has to piggyback on top of Instagram for specific functionality.  

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Asked to comment on the new feature, a Meta spokesperson told ZDNET: "I can confirm that this test is an extension of the ability to send Threads posts to Instagram, and gives some people the ability to send a message from Threads to someone on Instagram. This is not a test of DMs within the Threads app."

The idea is to let Threads users message someone without having to manually switch to Instagram. The need stems from Threads'  lack of a dedicated messaging inbox, a feature that might never see the light of day. In November 2023, Instagram head Adam Mosseri described the challenges in creating an inbox for Threads.

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"If, in the end, we can't make the Instagram inbox work for Threads, we'll have a hard choice to make between (1) mirroring the Instagram inbox in Threads and dealing with notification routing weirdness, and (2) building a totally separate Threads inbox and dealing with the fact that you'll have two redundant message threads with each of your friends with the same handles in two different apps," Mosseri wrote. "Neither seems great."

Still, there are a few drawbacks with the new messaging feature.

Meta is assuming that you have the same friends and connections on both Threads and Instagram. If you normally interact with a user on Threads, sending them a message via Instagram can be confusing. Also, you still need to head to the Instagram app to view or reply to any messages. Finally, the Instagram DM feature isn't exactly user friendly and wasn't designed to serve as a single messaging tool for two platforms. Hopefully, Meta will refine the DM experience on Threads further before rolling it out more broadly.

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