Why Instagram Direct Matters

Last week, Kevin Systrom introduced a new key feature in Instagram that lets you send pictures directly to specific users of the service, adding a layer of privacy that’s completely new to the service.

It is undoubtedly a response to the huge success of Snapchat (which kind of reminds me of Instagram when it started), but something caught my attention during the presentation:

What a lot of people associate with us is beautiful photography. And a new way to communicate and share in the real world doesn’t exactly strike a chord with beautiful photography. They seem a little disparate. But what I want to do today is talk about how they’re not so different. And in fact how they’re really close. For us communication is really core.

It’s not about photography necessarily. If we were about photography we’d be built into cameras, but we’re not built in to cameras, we’re built into phones.

I’ve seen myself times and times again, refraining from posting an image on Instagram because it wasn’t visually interesting enough or because the lighting wasn’t perfect. I think Instagram became a victim of the incredible pace at which camera technology in smartphones improves year over year. They imagined a future where cameras became phones, not phones becoming cameras and I feel like they were genuinely surprised by how people used their app to make art.

Well, this is Instagram stripping the art out of the equation, educating users to tell a story through images to communicate with each other. This is Instagram saying that images are not the end result, they’re a vessel through which you can describe things that no words can describe. It marks an important shift in direction for them and I think it’s going to be an interesting one to watch.