Instagram launches direct messaging competitor to Snapchat

12 Dec 2013

Photo-sharing app Instagram has launched a new feature called Instagram Direct which will allow users to share photos directly with up to 15 friends. In a bid to differentiate from Snapchat it encourages social engagement long after the photo is shared.

The new feature will be available from today as an update to the Instagram app in the iOS App Store and the Google Play store.

Speaking via video from an event in New York, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said the world is currently in a visual communications revolution.

“Phones have always been communication devices. Where are we now? Our phones got cameras or in some way our cameras got phones and this started an entire visual communications revolution.”

He said that in 2000, some 36bn photos were taken in the world, but in 2011 this had risen to 360bn.

“Since the transition to digital, there has been no limit on the amount of photos we can take … people are taking more photos now than they ever did in the past.”

‘On its own a photo is just art, but photos when shared become communication’


The added dimension, Systrom said, is the ability to now share those photos via social media.

Systrom said that at present there are 4bn feature phones in the world and 1bn smartphones.

“You’ve got to imagine that over time people will shift to smartphones and the meteoric rise of photos we’ve seen in the world will continue. It’s all about communications.

“On its own a photo is just art, but photos when transmitted become communication.”

The new Instagram Direct feature will give users who have just taken a picture on Instagram the option to click on Direct and add up to 15 friends who will receive a picture.

Because Instagram is used by millions of people and to avoid the danger of spam, Systrom said that people can only send or receive photos from people they are following.

Instagram will be updated to allow users to get easy access to shared photos from their feed.

While he didn’t mention Snapchat, which deletes images after 10 seconds and which is favoured by teens and people in their early 20s, Systrom emphasised core differences in what Instagram is offering.

“You will be able to send photos to a group of 15 people at once, revisit moments as much as you like and if you would like to be able to talk about them, you can.

“It includes real-time likes – views and chat brings this feature alive,” Systrom said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years