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Instagram has changed a lot since its acquisition by Facebook in 2012.

The original premise was so simple. Beautify your photo and share it to your friends in a couple clicks. Like your friends photos with a simple scroll and a double-tap.

Now, Instagram has videos and gifs (Boomerang). It has its own set of superstars and an algorithmic feed that helps those superstars dominate users’ feeds, including mine. And it has a direct messaging system.

Today, Instagram is testing out yet another change with the launch of a standalone Instagram Direct app. For now, the app is only available in Uruguay, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Portugal and Israel.

The Verge first noticed the test.

Instagram had this to say on the test:

We want Instagram to be a place for all of your moments, and private sharing with close friends is a big part of that. To make it easier and more fun for people to connect in this way, we are beginning to test Direct – a camera-first app that connects seamlessly back to Instagram.

The app will let you create and share stories, and give you access to exclusive filters, Boomerang and other creative tools on Instagram. And, of course, your Instagram friends are added instantly to the Instagram Direct app.

This begs the question: Why build a separate app for stuff that’s already available and functional within Instagram? The most obvious answer is that this is yet another barrage in the Instagram’s assault on Snapchat.

And it’s been working. In January, TechCrunch reported that the launch of Instagram Stories had resulted in lower usage of Snapchat Stories. The launch of Instagram Direct, with its perception of more private and intimate one-to-one conversations, could feasibly have the same affect on Snapchat’s direct messaging.

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There’s also the question of Messenger. Facebook is clearly making a play to get younger users back on the Facebook platform with the launch of Facebook Messenger Kids. The launch of Instagram Direct may be another part of that strategy.

The only specifics we have, if you can even call them specifics, is that the app will launch globally next year after Instagram has worked out the bugs and responded to user feedback.

Featured Image: Bloomberg/Getty Images

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