It’s a busy time for Instagram just now. Right after launching IGTV, it’s now introduced video chat in Instagram Direct that lets you chinwag with a single buddy or several at once.
“Video chat gives you the experience of real-time video in a private space and helps you feel close and connected to friends when you can’t be together,” the Facebook-owned company said in a post on Tuesday.
The feature lets you connect with all of your Instagram friends whether they’re using an iOS or Android device, and unlike some chat and messaging services, you don’t need a phone number to get started. So long as you have an active Direct thread with them, you’re good to go.
To begin a video chat, swipe into your Direct inbox and open any message thread. See the camera icon in the top right corner? Tap it to initiate a call.
During a chat, you can minimize the video and do other stuff on the Instagram app like sending messages and photos in Direct, checking your feed, posting a story, and so on.
The new feature lets you chat with as many as four buddies at a time, with each participant given their own space on the display so you can all see each other.
“If there’s an active video chat in a group thread, the camera icon will turn blue,” Instagram says. “Simply tap the camera to join in the fun.”
If you want to leave an active chat among friends or end the call if it’s with one other person, then tap the red phone icon at the bottom of the display.
Don’t want to receive a chat request from someone? Just block them to prevent calls. It’s also possible to mute an individual if you’d prefer not to receive notifications from them. To confirm your video chat notification settings, tap the gear icon on your profile and you’ll find the new video chat control in Push Notifications.
Explore and camera effects
Instagram has also given some attention to the Explore tab, retaining its style but adding new topic channels along the top to help you surface content of interest. You can move quickly between the different topics by swiping the entire grid.
Finally, Instagram’s one billion users can also have fun with some new camera effects designed by Ariana Grande, BuzzFeed, Liza Koshy, Baby Ariel, and the NBA.
Introducing video chat takes Instagram another step away from its roots as a simple photo-sharing app, but with people now so used to having social media apps packed with features, the team behind it calculates that this latest one will prove a hit. It should certainly achieve its main aim of keeping users within the app for longer, eliminating the need to hop out to a competitor to initiate a call. Launching with a group video option is also important, as the likes of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat already offer such a feature. Apple’s FaceTime will begin offering group video chats with iOS 12 when it launches in the fall.