Thoughts And Observations On Today’s Instagram Direct Event (It’s No Threat To Snapchat!)

A few minutes ago, Instagram unveiled a new feature – which will be available in both the iOS and Android app stores by today – called Instagram Direct.

Instagram Direct is basically a built-in messaging feature that allows users to send text (which must be accompanied with video or a picture), photos or videos to each other privately. “Each other” in this case can either refer to a specific individual, or to a group (up to 15 people for now).

How commenting and everything works once a conversation has been started is rather refined, in the sense that none of it is original but rather, borrowed concepts  that have been blended and perfected. If say, you send a group of 7 people a picture, and one of the people in the group sees it or likes it, their avatar will light up in real-time (not unlike Google+ Hangout’s window switching feature, whereby the person who is currently speaking will appear at the center of the screen). The avatars within the group then rotate around, depending on who you interact with most (not unlike Google Drive documents).

So the question is, who gets to see your stuff and who doesn’t? Well, photos and videos that you receive from people that you’re already following will immediately appear. If someone you’re not following sends you a photo or video, it will go straight to your requests inbox so you can decide if you’d like to view it… or not. This is supposedly to reduce “complexity” while in my opinion, only adds on to the complexity of the service.

Think about it: basically, whether you follow that person or not, he or she will still be able to send you a private photo and video accompanied with a message.

While the event was taking place, several people were commenting on Twitter that this was Instagram/Facebook’s offensive move against Snapchat after Snapchat rebuffed Facebook’s multiple attempts of an acquisition and after the Facebook Poke, the Snapchat clone Mark Zuckerberg reportedly coded on his own, fell flat on its face.

However, Instagram Direct either presents a really little threat to Snapchat, or none at all. Here’s why.

Instagram is focused on, in the words of CEO Kevin Systrom’s words, “… capturing the world’s moments. The important part in Instagram [Direct] is being able to go back to [photos] in order to have that conversation…”

In other words, Instagram wants you to take a picture that you think is nice, think about whether it’s worthy of being uploaded and shared, apply one of their nice filters, before actually uploading it. It’s a process drawn out over tens of minutes, and maybe even longer.

Snapchat, on the other hand, focuses on everything in the moment. To reinforce that point, they have consistently ignored requests from users to have the ability to upload their own pictures directly from the phone’s camera gallery or camera roll. The spontaneous nature of Snapchat’s click, send, done process is perhaps what made it so attractive to their demographics in the first place – you don’t have to think about whether or not you should send that embarrassing picture you just took. You just do it. 

While Instagram’s upload process takes minutes or even hours, Snapchat’s often takes no more than seconds.

Another thought I had while watching the press event: it shouldn’t have been an event – a press release and a couple of videos would have been more than sufficient.

Just a couple of days ago, Twitter finally allowed users to DM pictures to each other… and that didn’t exactly happen over a press event. All they did was announce it on their media channels and it was done. Instagram’s announcement, on the other hand, while it was no more important than Twitter’s, took up many journalists’ time.

I do believe that if they had gone with the press release route, Instagram Direct still would’ve gotten just as much attention, if only because they’re Instagram.

What this means now is that in the eye of every journalist who went to today’s event, Instagram’s invites are more or less valueless now. Why would you go if they’re only going to release trivial information/updates each time?

After today, think about how each media organization will think of Apple’s media invites versus Instagram’s.

I believe that at the end of the day, while Instagram’s announcements today are still relatively important to their ever-growing business, it’s going to be less significant than what many people are making it out to be right now.