At an event in New York City today, Instagram announced Instagram Direct, a new messaging feature available today for iOS and Android that lets users send text, video, and photo messages to each other privately. “Communication is not about photography, necessarily,” said CEO Kevin Systrom. “If we were about photography we’d be built into cameras, but we’re not, we’re built into phones.” Instagram up to this point focused on photos and videos — “moments” — as Instagram calls them. Messaging adds a third dimension to the app that lets people communicate using words, Systrom says, but more importantly to do so privately, if you’d like. “Sometimes you want to be able to share not with everyone, but just with a specific group,” he said.
Once you’ve finished editing a photo in Instagram, you can send it to up to 15 people, or just to one person. Each conversation needs to start with a photo, however — you can’t send just text right off the bat. If the friend you’re sending a message to is online, their avatar lights up in real-time inside a chat to show that they’ve seen or liked your message. A new Inbox button adorns the top right corner of your Instagram home screen that lets you instantly tap into your recent messages. If someone sends you a direct message while you’re browsing the app, a badge pops up on top of the Inbox button. Like on Twitter, only the people that you follow can send you photos and videos. Your groups can be for your college buddies, classmates, or your husband or wife, Systrom says.
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