Earlier this year, Snapchat, the rapidly growing, direct-messaging app increasingly embraced by fashion brands, reportedly turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook. So Instagram -- which is owned by Facebook -- decided to build a Snapchat of its own.
At a press event in Manhattan Thursday, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom unveiled "Instagram Direct," a new feature in Instagram that allows you to send images and 15-second videos to up to 15 your friends at a time -- rather than all of your followers. (You can only send messages to people who follow you.) If that sounds like Snapchat, you're right, but Instagram's new featureset is a great deal more complex -- and, I'd argue, useful. Images and videos don't disappear seconds after viewing them, and you and your friends can have private conversations about the messages you send to each other in a comments section.
The feature is easy to access. When you upload a photo or video, you can now select to send it to all of your followers, or to just a select few. You'll have an inbox where you can check all of your incoming messages. See it in action in the video above.
Will it kill Snapchat? Quite possibly. Snapchat claims that 30 million people use it daily -- Instagram says half of its users use it daily (so, about 75 million). Instagram Direct may not be useful for sexting (that's where the auto-delete feature comes in handy), but for those who just want to send pretty photos and videos to their friends, Instagram is likely to prove the better option.
As for fashion brands -- there's not an obvious opportunity here. Systrom says that brands could ask users to submit entries for a photo contest or collage via Instagram Direct, rather -- or in addition to -- submitting entries publicly with a dedicated hashtag. He added that it's "way too early" to talk about advertising in Instagram Direct. "It's not the focus right now," he said. "It's specifically focused on big branding elements."