Instagram Inc. is stepping up its bid to take on Snap Inc.'s Snapchat as it tests a stand-alone version of its private messaging app Direct, The Verge reported.
The stand-alone Instagram Direct app, which opens to the camera and connects to the Instagram app, was released on test mode Dec. 7 in Chile, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Turkey and Uruguay.
Instagram users in the six countries will reportedly have their inbox disappear from the Instagram app and will only show up on the stand-alone Direct app.
"We can push the boundaries to create the fastest and most creative space for private sharing when Direct is a camera-first, stand-alone app," Hemal Shah, an Instagram product manager, told The Verge.
Instagram previously added Snapchat-like features such as augmented-reality face filters, disappearing messages on Direct, its own version of Snapchat's Stories called Instagram Stories, and "geo-stickers."
Instagram's parent Facebook Inc. earlier discontinued the messaging feature on its mobile app, in a bid to encourage its users to install the stand-alone Facebook Messenger app.