Some people have privacy concerns, or are just plain private individuals, and for them there’s no appeal in sharing photos of their food with millions of strangers on the internet. Knowing that this niche needs to be catered for, Instagram has now added another “insta” to its portfolio: instant messaging.

The messaging portion of the photo-sharing service is called Instagram Direct and, as its name implies, it puts users in direct contact with one another. Tired of sharing your tofu photos with faceless creeps online? Send it to your aunt. Got a snazzy, 15-second video you captured while travelling the world? Beam it to your cousin Scotty.

Instagram really is making the most of its budding social network. Ever since Twitter kicked it out, dropping support for Instagram in its card previews, the Facebook-owned photo network has taken steps towards becoming more relevant among web users who want to instantly share their thoughts and images. And now they can do so with only their closest friends. Sounds like Facebook’s had a hand in crafting this new feature, if you ask us.

Instagram Direct is part of the new apps for Android and iOS. They’ve been updated to support the new feature, which can be accessed on the sharing screen, after taking a photo. The options are to either share your snaps and videos with your followers, or directly with people in your list of contacts – either a single person, or a group of friends. After sending an item, the comments section gets treated as a playground in which discussions can be had, just like an instant messaging platform.

The only difference here is that each new photo becomes a new conversation, and it’s not possible to embed images as replies. Instead, the actual reply button lets users trade photo and video responses, not written ones.

And if you need to see it in action, there’s a cute little video, replete with Instagram filters, showing how it all works.

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.