At today's mystery press event, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom officially announced the much rumored Instagram private message system, Instagram Direct. Instead of sending photos to your entire feed, you can finally send photos and videos to both individual friends and groups of friends.
And in very much the same way read receipts work on Facebook messages, you'll be able to see the second they open your message. Then, if the recipient decides to "like" your photo, the check mark signaling that they've read it will turn into that familiar Instagram heart.
It's not just like you'll be receiving photos and videos from just anyone, you can only receive photos and videos from those people you actually follow. If someone you don't follow does try to send you a message over Instagram direct, that message will go into a pending requests list, just like you'd see with a private Instagram profile.
And no need to be concerned about this turning into a folder full of dick pics, the photo won't actually appear until you explicitly accept the invitation. And if you decide to ignore a request once, any further attempts at private messaging from that user will be immediately ignored until you tell Instagram otherwise.
Also just like Facebook, these private messages work with groups, too. You can share photos with several different people, all of whom will be able to communicate within that one, private group like you can see below.
This is definitely a logical next step for Instagram. While an all-inclusive private messaging service (i.e. text-only messages included) would be nice, it doesn't make sense when Instagram is effectively supposed to act as an extension of Facebook. The new Instagram Direct update will be available in the App Store and the Google Play Store today.