Facebook tests button within mobile News Feed to drive users to native Instagram app

Facebook is testing a small icon on Instagram photos within the mobile News Feed that takes users out of Facebook and into Instagram, we’ve found.

The new button — seen in the bottom right corner of a post — is not necessarily exclusive to Instagram, though we have not yet seen any other third-party app icons in the mobile feed. Facebook agreed to acquire the mobile photo sharing app in April, but the deal has not been completed. This test is likely part of a larger plan to drive discovery and installs for mobile apps that integrate Open Graph.

Facebook’s mobile platform allows HTML5 and native iOS and Android apps to get distribution through News Feed, bookmarks and requests. These channels sent more than 160 million visitors from Facebook to mobile apps in April. Icons like the one we saw for Instagram could help catch users’ eyes as they scroll through the mobile feed and lead to even more app use.

Tapping the Instagram icon from the iOS Facebook app feed takes users directly to the native Instagram app and loads a user’s photostream. However, tapping the icon from the m.facebook.com feed on an iPhone opens a new browser window that displays the photo on Instagram’s mobile site. The Instagram button does not currently seem to appear in mobile Timeline or the new Facebook Camera feed.

We have not tested the new Instagram icon on Android devices, or on an iPhone that doesn’t already have the Instagram app installed. However, users who have not already downloaded Instagram are likely taken to the service’s App Store listing, as is the case for other mobile app links on the platform.

Note that Facebook’s mobile redesign makes some photo posts too large to be seen entirely without scrolling, so the photo above has been stitched together from two iPhone screenshots.

Before Facebook began testing the new icon, Instagram photos would appear on Facebook with a link to view the photo on Instagram’s website. It seems the link does not appear when the mobile app button is present. However, when viewing the photo outside of News Feed, the link displays again. See right.

While it’s possible the Instagram icon is the first test case for a new discovery stream for third-party apps, the new icon could also end up as a promotional tool for Facebook-owned services like Instagram, Facebook Camera or the recently acquired Karma.

Before the Instagram acquisition, the social network worked with the photo sharing app to test extending app publishing permissions to include the new Open Graph actions publishing. This resulted in a unique roll out of the Instagram Open Graph integration, which did not require users to re-authorize the application.