Instagram has announced Instagram Direct, its new feature to allow users to send private photos and video messages.

I mentioned two weeks ago about the increasing rumours about an Instagram messaging service, and Instagram has finally unveiled the feature.

Over the past three years, the Instagram community has grown to over 150 million people capturing and sharing moments all around the globe. As we’ve grown, Instagram has evolved not only into a community of photographers, but also into a means of visual communication. From a photo of your daily coffee to a sunrise shared from the top of a mountain hike, every Instagram moment contains something you find special—something you broadcast to your followers when you tap “share.”

There are, however, moments in our lives that we want to share, but that will be the most relevant only to a smaller group of people—an inside joke between friends captured on the go, a special family moment or even just one more photo of your new puppy. Instagram Direct helps you share these moments.

Instead of calling them messages, Instagram calls them direct posts. Posts that you share directly with certain people. Each Instagram direct post behaves like a normal Instagram post, so viewers can like and comment on it. The direct posts are not visible to public but everyone that you shared the photo with will be able to see its likes or comments.

You can choose to send to just one person or to a group of fifteen people. If you send the post to someone who doesn‘t follow you, they get to decide if they want to view the post. Instagram will remember who you allow to share directly with you. All direct posts will be stored in an Instagram Inbox.

It is interesting to note that Instagram’s foray into messaging still tries to stick to its roots as a photo and video sharing app. It boosts user engagement by allow them to privately interact with other users, while it avoids being just another messaging service.

Twitter is also encouraging users to engage each other via private messaging. It has made its direct message feature available on the home screen of its app. Direct messages were previously hidden in a button on a user’s profile page view. Earlier this week, Twitter also announced a new feature that allowed users to include images in direct messages.

Given the explosive growths of messaging apps such as LINE, and Tencent’s WeChat and QQ, it is no wonder that Instagram and Twitter want a slice of the pie as well.