Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said that users are effectively
already using the service to communicate specific ideas with each
other. He also observed that half of the app's more than 150
million users open it daily, which sounded like a jab at other
messaging services. Snapchat, for example, doesn't disclose how
many users it has.
As messaging apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat and Kik
proliferate and grow stickier as places for users to spend their
time, the established social networks are clearly getting hungry
for a piece of the action.
Facebook's mobile app currently has a prompt at the bottom of
the "messages" section urging users to install Facebook Messenger,
a separate app that's optimized for messaging. And Twitter made an
update this week whereby users can send
and receive images in their private direct messages -- a tweak
that seems to have been conceived of with Snapchat in Twitter's
It's not the first time Facebook has adapted Instagram to take
on a perceived competitor. Instagram added video soon after Twitter
acquired the short video service Vine.
Today's Instagram move is aimed at user engagement and keeping
people on the app for as long as possible each day. It's not
connected to Instagram's revenue push, which began rolling out
earlier this fall in the form of photos and videos promoted by
brands in users' streams.
"I think it's way too early to talk about advertising in
Instagram Direct," Mr. Systrom said. "Where brands can work to
collect photos from their consumers is much more interesting of a
use case right now."
Mr. Systrom also addressed the concept of "ephemerality," which
is what makes Snapchat unique among messaging apps, and seemed to
leave the door open to eventually introducing disappearing messages
on Instagram. But he also said that Instagram is about capturing
and sharing the world's moments.
Contributing: Alex Kantrowitz