Instagram Direct brings photo and video messaging to everyone’s favorite photo sharing app, but do we need it?

Instagram is jumping into the messaging fray today with the introduction of Instagram Direct. The new feature comes as part of the latest update to the photo sharing service and adds the ability to send photos and videos directly to a group of up to 15 friends.

Instagram has done a pretty nice job of integrating the new functionality into the familiar interface of their app. The only major change is the addition of an inbox shortcut in the upper righthand corner. To initiate a new private conversation, users will select whether to share a new photo or video to all followers or as a direct message after applying tweaks and filters.

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Many are saying that the new messaging features challenge popular photo messaging app Snapchat, but the two couldn’t be more different. While Instagram will show a user when a photo has been viewed by a friend, it doesn’t offer self destructing messages nor does it focus entirely on photos and videos (not to mention it lacks the ability to doodle on captured images). Text is and equally large a part of Instagram’s messaging service. A new string must be started with a photo, but replies need not include any sort of media.

The idea of private messaging via Instagram has its place and will surely appeal to many, but it’s hard to imagine exactly what the company was going for. We have plenty of messaging apps already, and Instagram doesn’t offer any clear advantages over them. Instagram’s simplicity and singular focus on photos (and now videos) is what made it so good. One has to wonder if fleshing the app out as a more robust social network really has any benefit.

[via Instagram]