Instagram was expected to announce something “big” today with many believing a new messaging feature would be unveiled. Well – that’s exactly what Instagram has announced as the company has unveiled Instagram Direct, its own messaging system that will allow users to send photos directly to their friends through the service.

“Photos alone are just art, photos when transmitted become communication,” CEO Kevin Systrom said during today’s press conference held in New York City “Sometimes, you want to be able to share not with everyone, but just with a specific group. You can’t really do that on Instagram today. We stepped back and thought what would we build if we wanted to enable this use case?”

Using Instagram Direct is as easy as you’d expect from the service as you’ll need to open up your followers panel, then choose the “Direct” tab within the panel. From the Direct tab, you can send a direct message that can include a combination of text and photo or a video to up to 15 people at once. If your photo hasn’t been viewed, it’ll look blurred prior to viewing, but once it’s been viewed by the recipient, the photo will become clear and a checkmark will show up next to it.

Today’s update to Instagram will be made available on iOS and Android devices later today.

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