Instagram Introduces Instagram Direct

Today at a press event in New York, Instagram founder Kevin Systrom has announced that the photo-sharing service is introducing private photo-sharing and messaging. The feature is called Instagram Direct.

Instagram has always been a mostly public social network, with a broadcast structure instead of connections based on mutual friendship, like Facebook. The introduction of Instagram Direct marks a new phase for the company.

Now, users who follow each other will be able to send each other private chat-like messages, which can include photos or videos (of course). Previously, users have only been able to like or publicly comment on pictures.

Here’s how it works:

When you go in to post a picture (the same way that you’ve been posting pictures on Instagram), you’ll see two new tabs on the top of the post: Followers and Direct.

With Direct, you can choose a specific friend and type a special message, and that goes only to your friend. Once that friend opens up the photo, their profile picture within the message gets a check mark, noting that it’s been read. Users can also like direct photo messages, and chat can ensue from there.

You can send Direct messages up to 15 people, and Instagram Direct also offers up suggested recipients.

When you receive a photo, you’ll see a little inbox icon on the top right corner of the app, which will send you directly to your new messages. You can chat privately one-on-one or with a group of people.

People who mutually follow each other can easily send messages to each other. If you don’t follow someone, and they’ve sent you a direct message, it’ll show up as a pending request rather than a received message in your private inbox.

When you accept, that person can henceforth send you direct messages that will land in your inbox.

Instagammers can not send text-only messages to each other, but must send pictures to start the chat function.

Users have had some options for privacy on the network, with the option to block certain users or mark your profile as private, which means you must accept follow requests.

But the move toward a more private, precious Instagram makes sense.

Messaging adds a new layer of engagement to the app. Users can now start up a conversation, which shouldn’t be difficult considering they’re watching their friends lives unfold in pictures.

Here’s a video preview: