Instagram on Thursday unveiled a new service, allowing its 150 million members to send private photo and video messages to friends and loved ones.
The Instagram Direct launch comes ahead of the holiday season just two days after rival Twitter rolled out updated mobile software allowing smartphone users to send pictures in direct, private messages.
The founder of the smartphone photo-sharing service, Kevin Systrom, made the announcement in Manhattan, fielding questions from journalists on site and those following all over the world.
"I would like to introduce Instagram Direct, a simple way to send photos and videos to your friends and family," he said.
"Sometimes there are moments that are meant for one person, or a few close friends: an inside joke among friends, or a picture sent to someone you love just to say hello," Facebook-owned Instagram said .
The new service, which is available to download immediately in Apple's App Store, and on Google Play.
The feature allows people to send a photo or video to up to 15 friends and loved ones. Systrom said the app had been designed to foster intimacy.
The new service will compete against a number of rivals which allow person-to-person photo or video message, notably Snapchat, which reportedly rejected a $3 billion takeover bid from Facebook last month.
"We really wanted to make this about moments you wanted to share with your friends. The people you really care about," Systrom told the news conference. "It's not about spamming everyone you know."
Last month Instagram began displaying ads, as Facebook moved to start making money from the service it bought in a billion-dollar deal last year.
Systrom said there were currently no plans to introduce advertisements to Instagram Direct