Instagram has finally started testing direct messaging (DMs) on the web on a small number of the platform’s users across the globe as it looks to respond to the rising trend of private messaging. Private messaging, groups and Stories are the three “fastest-growing areas of online communication,” according to Zuckerberg. While still testing the feature, Instagram said as part of the new development, website users will be able to see when they have received new DMs, as well as viewing their inbox, like messages, send photos and more. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri tweeted saying they hope to “bring this to everyone soon.” Adding desktop support will benefit brands and creators that spend a lot of time in DMs as previously users had to either use the mobile app or the mobile website. Users can make greater use of Instagram as both a social and reporting tool and will make communications easier.  

Unifying WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram DMs

This is a step towards Facebook’s hope of eventually unifying WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram messages so users could chat across platforms regardless of which one they are using, though this could take years to complete. However, as Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos tweeted: “This is fascinating, as it cuts directly against the announced goal of E2E encrypted compatibility between FB/IG/WA. Nobody has ever built a trustworthy web-based E2EE messenger, and I was expecting them to drop web support in FB Messenger. Right hand versus left?” 

Security challenges

The security of user’s private communications has been called into question as Facebook wants to shift towards private, end-to-end encrypted messaging for all of its apps. This would mean that the sender and recipient could view the contents of the messages, whilst Facebook, governments, and hackers wouldn’t be able to see what is being shared. Stamos continued to state two challenges when it comes to making web-based communications secure. He explains that historically, there has been no secure way to store cryptographic secrets in JavaScrip, which is how the Instagram website runs. However, he explains this would be a solvable problem in the future. The second issue Stamos wrote about was “the model by which code on the web is distributed, which is directly from the vendor in a customizable fashion. This means that inserting a backdoor for one specific user is much much easier than in the mobile app paradigm.”TechCrunch said Instagram DMs on mobile aren’t encrypted but apparently the company is working on making its products end-to-end encrypted. Critics have questioned whether this is part of the plan to prevent the likes of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) breaking up Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The FTC has already curbed the company’s plans to integrate its messaging apps as it could make it more difficult for law enforcement to break up the company in any future antitrust case. Let’s watch this space to see what Facebook does next. 
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