Instagram Direct Launches
December 12, 2013

Instagram Launches Instant Messaging Service ‘Instragram Direct’

Peter Suciu for – Your Universe Online

On Thursday Instagram finally put the “insta” – as in “instant” messaging – into the mix. The company, which had been rumored to be gearing up to launch a new private messaging feature to its popular photo and video sharing tools, made it official this week.

This new functionality means users no longer have to share photos and videos with all their friends, but instead can send those to an individual or up to 15 people privately. This new feature in the app allows for more intimate sharing for Android and iOS handset users.

Dubbed “Instagram Direct,” it essentially added functionality that has been standard with virtually every other social media and photo sharing service out there.

“Instagram Direct is a simple way to send photos and videos to your friends,” Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said at an event in New York City. “We wanted to make this about moments you share with your friends.”

Systrom added that Instagram, while known as a photo app, is really about communications between users.

“If we were about photography, we’d be built into cameras,” said Systrom as reported by Cnet. “But, we're not built into cameras. We're built into phones.”

With Instagram Direct, users can send and receive direct images from people they follow, while those who they don't follow who receive an image would get a message in the “pending requests” area of the app.

The key, however, is messages sent between friends. Messages can be sent to groups of up to 15 people. However, the service won’t allow users to create lists or circles of friends – so it isn’t trying to become a true social networking communications tool – which isn’t surprising given it is already owned by Facebook.

In addition, the service can’t be used just as a way to text friends as each message will begin with a photo or video – again suggesting Instagram Direct isn’t looking to branch much outside its comfort zone.

It is a little late coming with the messaging functionality, noted Cnet, especially given that Instagram is currently a unit of Facebook.

“But the truth is, Instagram is just playing catch-up with the myriad of services already out in the market,” wrote Roger Cheng of Cnet following Thursday’s press event. “Twitter on Tuesday updated its own iOS and Android apps to include photos with direct messaging, and previously opened up its direct messaging capabilities. The other obvious competitor is SnapChat, which has captivated users with its self-detonating messaging model.”

Tech Hive also noted that perhaps Instagram Direct is little more than a feature that was missing in the first place.

“The comparison between Direct and Snapchat is inevitable, because Instagram’s parent company Facebook has been so obvious in its pursuit of the popular ephemeral messaging app,” Tech Hive noted. “But Instagram Direct adds a much-needed layer of privacy to the service, which has previously been all-or-nothing – you either shared everything publicly or everything privately, with nothing in between.”

The final piece of this could be how Instagram utilizes these new features as a revenue stream, but Systrom says it is still too early to talk about advertising and Instagram Direct.

Currently Instagram has about 150 million uses, which is notable in that it only launched three years ago.