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Facebook-owned Instagram morphs into messaging service to please admen

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Facebook needs to turn Instagram into a money-making concern. Ads will shortly be knitted into the service, and - in preparation for that - the photo-sharing site has debuted a new messaging feature called Direct.

It's keen to get more of its 150 million users to engage with each other and hang around longer on Instagram. To achieve that, the company is adding community features that allow individuals to share photos and videos at a more granular level with smaller groups such as friends or family.

The new function has been added to Apple and Google apps stores today, while the Windows Phone version is currently in beta, Instagram said.

The word "Direct" has - it would seem - been, er, directly lifted from Twitter, which allows users to post tweets to everyone on the micro-blogging network or to Direct Message (DM) individuals privately.

Similarly, Instagram users can now share images with their "followers" or send the photos and vids to a specific group of up to 15 people.

The new feature creepily allow users to stalk their followers by seeing who has looked at their content, who has liked it and who is talking about it in "real time".

"Photos and videos that you receive from people you follow will appear immediately. If someone you’re not following sends you a photo or video on Instagram, it will go to your requests so you can decide if you want to view it," the company, which Facebook bought for $715m in September last year.

Last month, it was reported that messaging service Snapchat spurned a $3bn buyout offer from Facebook. Instagram has now become a Direct competitor of Snapchat.

Ads have yet to be served up on Instagram - but they are coming. Which is why, as a Facebook property, it's important for the app to bolt on functions that will allow it to morph into a free content ad network just like its daddy. ®

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