Called Instagram Direct, the feature is available for Apple and Android phones, CEO Kevin Systrom said at a press event in New York City. Users can choose up to 15 of the people who follow them on Instagram to share photos or videos with.
Previously, the only way to share content on Instagram was to post it to your feed, which can be either visible to everyone or locked so only people you approve can see it.
The new tool comes as popularity of messaging apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp is soaring.
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