Instagram Direct has over 45 million active users

Instagram introduced direct picture messaging at the end of last year, but up until now we haven’t heard much from the Facebook-owned app about how well the new feature is performing. According to a report this weekend from TechCrunch, 45 million users are actively using the Direct capabilities, which is a sizeable chunk of Instagram’s 200 million-strong user base. Instagram Direct takes on one-to-one services such as Snapchat as well as giving users a way to share photos among smaller groups rather than all of their followers at once. “There are… moments in our lives that we want to share, but that will be the most relevant only to a smaller group of people — an inside joke between friends captured on the go, a special family moment or even just one more photo of your new puppy,” said the blog post introducing the feature. “Instagram Direct helps you share these moments.”

Seven months after launching Instagram Direct, 45 million of Instagram’s 200 million users are actively sending or opening Direct messages, the company tells me. This 23% monthly usage rate indicates Direct is far from stillborn. While I haven’t seen or heard of many friends using the ephemeral private sharing channel, it may be quietly gaining steam with those who use Instagram as their primary social network, or small groups looking for more intimacy than the feed. Prior to the launch when sources told us an ephemeral Instagram messaging feature was on the way, I said it was wise move for four reasons. Direct could: Box out private and ephemeral messaging competitors like Snapchat, use notifications to inspire return visits better than photos that get lost in the forgettable feed, grow Instagram overall by creating another reason to sign-up, and unlock sharing of content types unfit for broadcasting to hundreds of millions of people. The last is the most important, and what I suspect is driving Direct’s growth. Whether it’s a goofy face, a flirty smile, a crass joke, or just everyday conversation, Direct creates a medium for a much wider range of photos than what gets publicly published on Instagram. In private, you don’t have to look perfect, capture the most stunningly filtered sunset, or show off your grandiose lifestyle. Micro-sharing one-on-one or to smaller groups of close friends lets us be ourselves.

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