The introduction of Instagram Direct is further evidence that social networks are moving away from the idea that an app or utility should be born to do just one thing, and to do it brilliantly. While Facebook has long been a multi-purpose service, all the major social networks now are travelling in that direction, which soon will leave us with four or five nearly identical competitors.
Just this week Twitter announced the inclusion of images in mobile DMs, and Instagram announced the direct messaging of images -- can you see the similarity?
This kind of feature-creep is rife among all major social channels. As Instagram shifts from photo-sharing into messaging, Foursquare has moved from geo-tagging to local search. Twitter is as often about image sharing as microblogging. Digital channels want to be all things to all people.
It's alarming how similar they are already. As the chart shows below, the social networks that started out with distinct purposes are merging into a homogenous soup of social, with little to distinguish them except legacy user demographics quickly being diluted by mass adoption.