Instagram is globally rolling out a voice messaging feature on Instagram Direct, later today.
The voice messages are up to one-minute long, stay permanently listenable rather than disappearing, and work in one-on-one and group chats on iOS and Android. To record a voice message, users must hold down the microphone button to start recording a short voice message that appears in the chat as an audio wave form that recipients can then listen to at their leisure.
This new hands-free Direct Messaging feature could make Instagram a more appealing chat app for people on the move with their hands full, users in the developing world who want a less data-consuming way of staying connected, or drivers. It could also be a win for users in countries with less popular languages or ones that aren’t easily compatible with smartphone keyboards, as they could talk to friends instead of typing.
The launch deepens Facebook’s entry into the voice market. From its first voice messaging and VOIP features back in 2013 to its new voice control system Aloha that works on its recently launched Portal video chat screen, Facebook has long taken an interest in the accessibility of voice but only got serious about building it across its products in 2018. Along with Instagram video calling, today launch raises the question of whether Portal and Instagram will team up. That could make Portal more useful…but also risks making Instagram less cool by tightening its ties to Facebook.