Blog Post

instagram direct
14 December 2013

How Instagram Direct Works

Photo-sharing service Instagram has announced a new way to send photo and video messages to friends. And it integrated the update to recent releases of its mobile apps for Android and iOS devices.

At a media event in New York, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom introduced the new feature called Instagram Direct.

For about three years until now, Instagram’s community of more than 150 million members has mostly served as a public social network. It captures and shares moments in fun and exciting photos from across the world through a broadcast distribution channel rather than connections that tap on mutual friendship, like Facebook, the world’s largest social network – and its parent company.

As the company grew under the overseeing eyes of Facebook, Instagram changed from a small community of photographers to a mainstream platform for visual communication.

“From a photo of your daily coffee to a sunrise shared from the top of a mountain hike, every Instagram moment contains something you find special—something you broadcast to your followers when you tap share,” says a post on the company’s official blog.

Then Instagram realized that people also want an option wherein they can share messages only to a selected group of people.

Instagram Direct marks a new stage for the company. It empowers users who follow each other to send private, chat-like messages to one another. These messages may come in the form of photos or videos. Until now, users only had the ability to like or post public comment on images.

“From how you capture photos and videos to the way you start conversations through likes and comments, we built Instagram Direct to feel natural to the Instagram experience you already know,” the company added.

How Instagram Direct Works

When you open Instagram to see a new message, you will now see one new inbox icon at the top-right corner of the home feed. You can tap the icon to open your inbox filled with all new and old photo and video messages people sent to you. You may chat directly and privately from here to one person or a chosen group of people.

instagram direct

Not much has changed when posting pictures on Instagram, but you will see two new tabs marked as Followers and Direct atop the post. To send a photo or video message privately, tap the camera button to enter the photo- or video-capturing and editing screens. Atop the sharing screen, you can publicly share to your followers via Followers or privately send messages to specific people via Direct.

For private messaging under Direct, tap the names you want to receive your photo or video, write a subtitle or caption, and then tap “send”. Direct allows you to pick a certain friend and add a special message that only your friend can read. Once your friend receives and opens the message, his or her profile picture in the message is marked as read with a check mark. Users may like Direct messages and chat may follow from there.

Through the check mark notification, you can determine whether or not your recipients have seen your photo or video. You also see who has liked it and watch them typing a comment in real time as the conversation develops.

Photo and video messages that you get from people who mutually follow each other will appear directly and instantly between them. If a person you do not follow sends a photo or video message to you via Instagram Direct, it will show up as a pending request in your private inbox so you can choose if you want to view it or not.

You may send Direct messages to a maximum of 15 people, and Instagram Direct will also suggest recipients. When you accept a suggested recipient, you are allowing that person to send you direct messages that will immediately land in your inbox.

Instagram users must send photos or videos to each other to enable the chat function because the service does not allow text-only messages.

When it comes to privacy and security, you have the option to block a specific Instagram user or set your profile to private. And private mode means you have to accept follow requests.

Instagram Direct messaging brings in a new engaging communications channel to the app. Users may now start a conversation whenever they want to. And it is easy to come up with topics to discuss when you are watching your friends’ lives unfold in photos and videos.

The new Instagram Direct feature is integrated into the new Instagram for iOS version 5.0 at the Apple’s App Store, and the Instagram for Android version 5.0 at the Google Play Store. Alas, Instagram for Windows Phone is still in beta.

More Than 75 Million Daily Active Users

At the event, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom also announced that the service is now used by more than 50 percent of its users every day.

In September 2013, Instagram told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that it had reached the mark for 150 million monthly active users. And if this statistic still holds today, it means Instagram has more than 75 million daily active users. But then Facebook released details about its own key facts, wherein it had 727 million daily active users during that month, though it did not mention if it included Instagram’s numbers within the figure.

Departing from his own company, Systrom discussed the growth of photo-sharing in general. He said three factors drive its development: the transition to digital, the portable cameras in our pockets through smartphones, and the ability to share photos on social media platforms. He said those photos run the full range of crucial moments from politics to simple brunches. He noted that these are visual status messages and a simple way to check-in on a location.