Instagram rolls out photo, video sharing

Bloomberg NewsDecember 12, 2013 

Facebook’s Instagram mobile photo-sharing application will let users send photos and videos directly to their friends as it steps up competition against upstart messaging services such as Snapchat.

The new feature, called Instagram Direct, will pop up in an icon on a user’s home feed. The tool will let people send photos and videos directly to as many as 15 friends, who can then discuss them using familiar features such as comments and the like button, the company said at an event in New York. The new services were available to users beginning Thursday.

“It’s like gathering people around a photo, a moment, and being able to have a conversation about them,” Kevin Systrom, chief executive officer of Instagram, said at the event.

Instagram is adding tools to fend off increasing competition from Twitter and newer messaging startups, including WhatsApp, Kik Interactive and Snapchat, all of which have garnered large user bases.

“This new Instagram feature is kind of like Snapchat without the snap, or like Twitter direct messages, but with a group,” said Brian Blau, an analyst at Gartner. “It’s like everybody is getting together and thinking, ‘How can we offer the same thing?’ The features themselves are cool but companies are having a hard time offering anything innovative or different.”

Facebook, whose social network has more than 1 billion members, purchased Instagram for about $700 million last year, and it’s using the app to help it reach users on smartphones and tablets. The company has been updating the service, including adding the ability to take videos in June. In October, Instagram started letting advertisers deliver pictures to its 150 million users. Thursday, Systrom said it’s too early to talk about using direct messaging for advertising.

While Instagram may keep developing new capabilities, such as the ability to draw on photos, it’s unlikely to make messages disappear like Snapchat does, Systrom said. Instagram’s service is more suited to being an archive, he said.

“Snapchat has their own market and they are going after it in a really unique way,” Systrom said. “The way we’ve done it is just very different.”

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