Instagram Direct: New private messaging feature shares photos and videos to smaller groups

(Photo: Instagram)A screenshot from an photo sharing service Instagram ad shows a user utilizing the new Instagram Direct feature.

Instagram, the photo and video sharing service owned by Facebook, on Thursday introduced Instagram Direct, a private messaging feature that limits messages sent to a smaller group of people.

"Today, we're excited to bring you Instagram Direct, a new way to send photo and video messages to friends," the service announced in its blog on Thursday.

The service, available for iPhone and Android users, says Instagram Direct helps share "moments" that "will be most relevant only to a smaller group of people."

The launch of the new service comes soon after reports that Facebook attempted unsuccessfully to acquire fast-growing Snapchat, a rival photo messaging service, for $3 billion.

Snapchat's distinct features include the ability to let pictures disappear after they are viewed. Snapchat users can also draw on images sent. Those features are not currently available on Instagram Direct.

The new Instagram feature is available through an icon in the top right corner of Instagram's home feed. By tapping it, users can see the photos and videos which have been sent.

Users can now send photos and videos by selecting from options labeled "Followers" or "Direct." Groups can be as large as 15 people. Users in the group can initiate conversations by commenting on the photo or video sent.

Instagram says it has over 150 million users.

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