Photo sharing app Instagram gained the ability to send photos and videos to individual users via a new messaging feature called Instagram Direct.
Numerous messaging apps allow users to send pictures or videos to each other but this is the first time Instagram has offered the capability. It is the latest evolution of the photo sharing service following Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of the company in April 2012.
Short-form video clips were added to the service in June, allowing it to compete with the likes of Twitter’s Vine app. More recently, the company announced it would start to show adverts within the app as it looks to build itself into a “sustainable business”.
Eden Zoller, principal analyst at Ovum, said the new feature is a “clear move” by Facebook to keep users engaged with Instagram which is seeing increased competition from rivals such as Vine and Snapchat.
In addition, users are spending more time using messaging apps such as WhatsApp, at the expense of Instagram and Facebook: “This is the last thing that Facebook wants as it’s working hard to drive advertising on Instagram in a bid to monetise the service. A drop off in engagement on Instagram will damage this objective,” Zoller commented.
“The injection of real-time communications into Instagram is a natural complement to the core photo sharing service, while the private groups feature will appeal to people that are either disenchanted with or wary of more open social broadcast platforms,” the analyst added.
The Direct feature is part of the Instagram 5.0 update for iOS and Android and allows users to share pictures or video clips with individual contacts or a group of friends, rather than share them with all of their contacts within the app.
Users can send images and videos by selecting the ‘Direct’ option rather than ‘Followers’ in the photo interface, then choosing who they want to send the message to. Once an item has been sent, the app will show who has viewed and liked it, and the comments people have left.
An inbox, accessed by tapping the Direct icon on the top right of the Instagram home feed, shows the images and videos that have been received.
Instagram passed 150 million users in September, with more than 60 per cent of those coming from outside the US.