Instagram Introduces "Direct" Messaging Feature

By An Phung
|  Thursday, Dec 12, 2013  |  Updated 1:24 PM EDT
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Photo sharing app Instagram will now join the likes of Snapchat and Whatsapp to feature a private messaging tool called Instagram Direct.

Founder Kevin Systrom on Thursday introduced Instagram Direct at a press event in New York and the company published a blog post on their site to detail the features of the new tool.

Here is how it works:

When users open Instagram, they will now see a new icon in the top right corner of the home feed. Tapping it will open the inbox where they can see photos and videos that friends have sent them privately.

To send a photo or video to specific people, there is a "Direct" option at the top of the share screen that allows users to select the friends they want to see the photo. After sending it, users can see who has viewed the photo or video and watch recipients comment in real time.

This is a change from Instagram's current function where photos posted are seen by everyone on their friends list with no option to cherry-pick the people with whom they want to share a photo. And if the user's account is public, the photos are accessible by everyone on the Internet.

“As we all got used to having these cameras in our pockets, sometimes you see something and it’s not really meant for a larger group. … Now there’s some sense of self-curation,” Systrom said on Thursday. He also stressed that the feature is still in its early stages and didn't want to make it too sophisticated until they have feedback from users.

Users can send direct messages to up to 15 people. People who mutually follow each other can easily send photos to each other, while photos from those are not following you will show up as a pending request rather than as a inbox message.

The messages are always accompanied by photos or videos and users cannot send text-only messages to each other.

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