At a press conference Thursday in New York, Facebook-subsidiary Instagram took the wraps off its latest feature: a private messaging service called Direct.
The Direct interface is pretty simple. From now on, when you take a picture or shoot a video using the Instagram app, you'll have two options – either share the media with all your followers, or choose a specific group of buddies. If you choose the latter option, a "conversation" – in Instagram-speak – will be created, and you'll be able to read comments or see "Likes" in real time.
"There [are] moments in our lives that we want to share, but that will be the most relevant only to a smaller group of people – an inside joke between friends captured on the go, a special family moment or even just one more photo of your new puppy," the Instagram press team wrote in a post today on the company blog. "Instagram Direct helps you share these moments."
To access Direct, you'll need to download the latest version of Instagram from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Rajeev Chand, the head of research at investment bank Rutberg & Company, said "messaging is a great idea for Instagram." He went on to reference Poke, a recently-released (and not particularly popular) iPhone app that allows users to quickly send text or media messages. "What teens do not want is a copycat, as Poke illustrated," Mr. Chand said.
Not everyone, of course, was particularly wowed by the new Instagram feature. In a sharply-worded commentary over at CNET, Roger Cheng argues that Instagram is merely playing a long-shot game of "catch-up."
"Instagram is essentially trying to take on the giants of the instant message world. Good luck," Mr. Cheng writes. "There are a myriad of players in this area, including Apple's iMessage, WhatsApp, and even BlackBerry's BBM. These are established services that people are comfortable using when sending messages, photos, and video to specific people, and all come complete with their network of contacts."