Instagram announced a new feature today that puts it in even more direct competition with Snapchat – the appropriately named Instagram Direct. The photo-sharing app now gives its over 150 million users the option to share photos and videos with only a select group of individuals.
The new feature will bring no major changes to the look and feel of the app as the company aimed to keep the “Instagram experience” the same. According to Instagram, there will now be a new icon on the top right corner of the home feed, which will click through to the inbox for photos and videos sent to users. As for sharing to specific people, the photo and video filter process will be the same until the share screen, which now gives users the options of “Followers” or “Direct.” Upon choosing Direct, the rest of the process is very reminiscent of Snapchat.
Instagram Direct comes less than a month after parent company Facebook had its $3 billion offer for Snapchat rejected, so the timing should not be considered a coincidence. Nor should this be surprising considering that earlier this year, Instagram Video launched less than five months after the launch of Twitter-owned Vine. Debuting amid rumors that the app will be adding direct text-based messaging, Instagram Direct takes that a step further to try to lure away users who use Snapchat but also have an Instagram account.
This move also adds another seed of doubt to Snapchat’s $3 billion rejection, which was seen by some as a bad move. After all, Snapchat to this day has not released its total number of users, and there are still doubts about how it can be monetized.
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel recently said at a private conference that users sent over 400 million messages per day, according to the website All Things Digital. However, that number is useless unless advertisers know how many people they are reaching. In that same conference, Spiegel also said monetization is on the horizon and will start “modestly” and may include subscriptions to “value-added service.”
Whatever the monetization plan is for Snapchat, it must begin sooner rather than later in order to avoid any traction lost thanks to Instagram Direct. Otherwise, the company may see 2013 as a $3 billion mistake.