Instagram Direct is pretty much useless. Introduced in 2013, the messaging feature of the popular social network always seemed like an afterthought, tacked on with no real purpose. But it’s getting a major update beginning Wednesday, and it might finally be something you actually use.
Before, in order to begin a message, you had to send someone a photo—only then could you start sending actual text messages, making for a pretty awkward way to start a conversation. And once a photo was sent, friends couldn’t send images back and forth inside the original message, making Direct a pretty limited way to communicate. Thankfully, Instagram heard our cries, and has completely revamped how Direct works.
Going forward, not only can you start sending messages with text-only, but you’ll also be able to share photos from someone else’s feed. That means you’ll no longer have to comment an “@“ in order to bring your friend’s attention to a certain post. You’ll also be able to share hashtag pages, locations, and profiles right from your Instagram feed. Up to 15 people can be added to a direct message, too, making it a pretty easy to communicate with friends when you want to share something specific through the platform.
Instagram said that about 85 million people use Direct each month, which is just a fraction of the service’s 300 million users. Today’s update should boost that number significantly, though I’m guessing it still won’t cut down on “@“ mentions, which the service says accounts for a whopping 40-percent of all comments on Instagram.
As part of the update, Instagram says the same privacy rules apply to the update, which means you can send a Direct message to anyone, even if that person doesn’t follow you. If you do receive a message from someone you don’t follow, that message will show up as “pending,” giving you the opportunity to accept or decline it; declining the message will mean you won’t receive messages from that sender again. Private accounts can only send messages between people they’re friends with.
Instagram Direct never really felt like a part of the service, but today’s update finally brings it to the forefront, and should encourage even more communication between users. The update to Direct should be rolling out to iOS and Android users beginning today.