Video Chat Comes to Instagram Direct

The Explore tab now features topic channels

Instagram Direct video chat Instagram

Three Instagram features that were announced at Facebook’s F8 annual developer conference in May—video chat in Instagram Direct, the addition of topic channels to the Explore tab and new camera effects—are going live Tuesday.

Instagram iOS and Android users can now start video chats in Direct, with one person or a group of people, by swiping into their Direct inboxes, opening message threads and tapping the new camera icon in the right corner.

Friends’ phones will ring when they are invited into a video chat, and video chats can be minimized so that users can perform other tasks on Instagram.

Instagram said users can video chat with anyone who they have active Direct threads with, and people can be blocked or muted via the video chat control options under push notifications.

The Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing network said in a blog post, “Video chat is perfect for groups. You can video chat with up to four people at a time, and the video will expand as more friends join. If there’s an active video chat in a group thread, the camera icon will turn blue. Simply tap the camera to join in the fun. You can video chat with your friends for as long as you’d like. When you’re ready to leave the video chat, tap the red phone icon at the bottom.”

Instagram said more than 200 million people visit its Explore tab daily, and the addition of topic channels will aid their discovery process, writing, “When you open the page, you’ll see a tray at the top with personalized channels. This includes a ‘For You’ channel, which has a mix of posts tailored to your interests. You’ll also see channels on topics you might like such as Art, Sports, Beauty or Fashion, as well as a list of hashtags, giving you more ways to explore your interests.”

Users can browse through interests by swiping from grid to grid or dive deeper into specific interests by tapping on channels and scrolling up. Channels can be removed by pressing and holding on them and selecting Mute from the menu, and they can be unmuted at any time.

Finally, new camera effects designed by Ariana Grande, BuzzFeed, Liza Koshy, Baby Ariel and the National Basketball Association are now available to users.

Instagram wrote, “You’ll see a new effect in your Instagram camera if you follow any of these accounts—just tap the face icon at the bottom-right corner. If you aren’t a follower but you see an effect that you love, you can tap to try it on and add it to your camera.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.