December 13, 2013 Kevin Erb

If you can’t buy them, join them

So seems to be the thinking behind Instagram’s announcement yesterday, debuting a new feature – Instagram Direct – enabling users to send photos directly to other individuals and groups.

Facebook, which bought Instagram earlier this year, recently tried to snap up Snapchat but was ultimately rebuffed by the start-up. So Facebook went ahead and introduced a Snapchat like feature to more directly compete with the service and, it hopes, start siphoning off its rabid user base, especially among the younger people it’s most popular with.

If you’re an Instagram user, what does this mean for you? The biggest change, obviously, is the ability for you to now choose between sharing a picture with your followers or with certain individuals or groups. It also means you now have an inbox of sorts in your account where photos other people choose to send you directly will now reside.

If you’re a Snapchat user, what does this mean for you? Not much – for now. But know that a day of reckoning is coming – a time when Snapchat somehow, someway, that service is going to have start making some money. And unless it starts charging to use the service – highly unlikely – that will mean ads. And that will mean the user experience will change in a fundamental, inexorable way. And the young users Snapchat has built its future on are particularly sensitive to feeling marketed to. That day is coming whether they like it or not, unfortunately.

And, if you’re not a user of either but thinking about getting in the game, Mashable gives us a handy Instagram vs. Snapchat guide.

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