Instagram's New Photo Messaging Feature Is A Strong Response To Snapchat

Snapchat evan spiegelAPSnapchat CEO Evan Spiegel.

Instagram just
announced Instagram Direct.
It’s a photo messaging feature. With Instagram Direct, you can send videos or pictures to a few select friends.

In other words, it’s Snapchat but the photos don’t disappear.

Why would Facebook launch this?

It’s easy to say that this is Mark Zuckerberg’s response to Evan Spiegel reportedly rejecting his $US3 billion acquisition offer. But mobile messaging services are becoming wildly popular. Twitter just made sending direct messages a much better experience and worked in the ability to share photos. WhatsApp is a messaging service that’s exploded in the past few years to 350 million unique monthly users. So it makes sense for Facebook and Instagram to make their messaging features more robust.

Instagram Direct isn’t as blatant a rip-off of Snapchat as Poke was. You can’t draw over top of the photos or videos like you can on Snapchat. However you can write captions on Instagram Direct, which delivers a similar effect.

You can also send text-only messages back and forth on Instagram Direct. That’s a feature Snapchat should consider adopting. A lot of Snapchat users take photos of nothing, a wall or ceiling for example, just for the texting a response.

Instagram Direct has another leg-up on Snapchat. On Snapchat, it’s difficult to find friends who are also using the app. There’s no “connect with Facebook” option to see who’s on the app and who isn’t.

Instagram obviously doesn’t have that problem.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of Snapchat and Instagram Direct.

Snap a photo or video. Add a caption if you wish. On the left is Snapchat, on the right is Instagram Direct.

Add the friends you want to receive the photo or video message. Instagram knows which friends you share with most, just like Snapchat.

Instagram Direct doesn’t get rid of the need for Snapchat. If you want to send a spontaneous, ephemeral message, you’ll still choose Snapchat. That feature applies to a younger set, from teenagers through 20-somethings, who do ridiculous things and don’t want the messages coming back to haunt them later.

As you get older and do things like get married or have kids, you want to hold on to your memories. Facebook is hoping the majority of people feel that way and that they’ll want to preserve photo messages on Instagram Direct.

Kevin Systrom, head of Instagram, made that much clear with his final slide at the launch event today.

“Revisit moments as much as you’d like,” it read. Obviously on Snapchat, you can’t do that.

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