Instagram, the photo-sharing app that Facebook acquired last year, wants to get us all sharing postcards again, only it plans to do it in a virtual way with a new feature called Direct
"Direct" lets users send "private" photos to a maximum of 15 users, although a quick test found it was easy for a user to save any image to their own iPhone or Android device and then re-share the images onward from it.
Skeptics may also ask what is the technological improvement here beyond being able to text a photo to an individual.
But today's not a day for doubters, at least among the 150 million users of the app.
A promotional video touting the feature is based on a road trip, with travel scenes of users snapping photos in front of attractions such as Chicago's "Millennium Bean" and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and then sharing the images with individuals or a select group of friends.
Unlike rival photo-sharing app Snapchat, Instagram Direct's images are permanent and don't disappear after a set time.
Here's how it works, according to the company's blog:
When you open Instagram, you’ll now see a new icon in the top right corner of your home feed. Tap it to open your inbox where you’ll see photos and videos that people have sent to you. To send a photo or video to specific people, tap the camera button to enter the same simple photo or video capture and editing screens. At the top of the share screen, you’ll see the option to share with your followers (“Followers”) or to send to specific people (“Direct”). To send using Direct, tap the names of the people you want to send your photo or video to, write your caption, tap “send” and you’re done.
After sending, you’ll be able to find out who’s seen your photo or video, see who’s liked it and watch your recipients commenting in real time as the conversation unfolds.
Photos and videos that you receive from people you follow will appear immediately. If someone you’re not following sends you a photo or video on Instagram, it will go to your requests so you can decide if you want to view it.
Earlier this week Twitter, the micro-publishing service, revamped its (ever-awkward) direct messaging tool to allow users to send photos.