Instagram Direct

Earlier this month, Instagram released its new offering – Instagram Direct – a new way to share pictures and videos to other users. It’s a new response to photo-messaging services, such as Snapchat. Direct is accessed by tapping on an inbox icon inside Instagram, even though the service doesn’t really recreate a traditional inbox. Instead of allowing back-and-forth conversations through photos, the app allows users to send a single photo or video and then chat about it. Every Direct conversation begins with a photo or a video, allowing a group of up to 15 users to talk about it in the comment section.

Similar to Facebook’s messaging service, Instagram will not allow users to pretend that they haven’t seen messages. The app will inform users whether a photo has been viewed or not, and it will even display a timer next to each message to remind users of just how quickly a recipient has viewed a message, or how long they have been ignoring it.

On the plus side, Instagram Direct will allow users to delete messages that they regret sending out and hind the ugly ones that friends have sent. It’s even possible to send and receive messages with people you may not be following, as long as you have their approval. This should help prevent inboxes from filling up with spam.

Instagram Direct is a part of Instagram’s latest 5.0 update, available on both iOS and Android. The update includes a number of design changes for the camera interface on iPhone.

Privacy Perspectives

At the release event, Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram, said “Sometimes you want to be able to share not with everyone, but just a specific group. We wanted to make this about moments you share with friends. It’s like you’re gathering people around a photo or moment and being able to have a conversation around them… We don’t show the image from someone who isn’t following you. There is no potential of getting images you don’t want to see.”

Like other photo-messaging services, Instagram Direct represents a shift on privacy perspectives. With the ever-changing ways we can connect with friends and family, this means that the way people think about privacy must evolve. Users are learning how to cope by adapting themselves and their sharing behavior by deciding what information they want to present, based on the number of people who will see it.

Essentially, users are fine-tuning their sharing behavior towards what will garner the most attention, posting images and videos that will get the most response and trigger the most comments. Instagram Direct can be seen as an acknowledgement of that shift. It’s not like people are going to be sharing their most private moments with this app – it is a product released by Facebook, at the end of the day. However, it recognizes that people want a better and less public way to interact with their friends.

Notably, Instagram Direct has granular privacy settings for photos in the app. These settings may be masquerading as a messaging service, but this improves ease of use.

But will it last?

Despite the hype around the release of the new app, some were underwhelmed, and rightly so. A NY Times blogger commented, “… [Instagram Direct] looked polished and well-designed, but in the end it seemed like another inbox to check, another stream to stay on top of – another message service in an already long list of message services.”

After all, there are a number of social media companies looking to succeed in the messaging market. Earlier this week, Twitter added the ability to send photos in Direct Messages, and Facebook has also improved its messenger app in the past few months with features such as stickers and group chatting. Snapchat has also gained in popularity amongst its younger users.


Instagram Direct, the latest photo-messaging app, was released in early December, coming as no surprise, given the amount of interest in social media companies, looking to succeed in the messaging market.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/Information Technology (CIPP/IT), a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Privacy expectations – the consumer perspective (II.A.a.)
  • Privacy expectations – organizational practices (II.A.b.)
  • Unauthorized account access or data sharing (II.C.b.iv.)

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>