Invite blocks in hand, we've braved the cold New York weather to pop by Instagram's big event. Naturally, the photo sharing service kicked off with some bullish numbers, noting that it has grown from 80 million to 150 million users this year. But the company's CEO, Kevin Systrom, noted that today was all about looking forward to 2014. The big news was the announcement of Instagram Direct, a way of limiting specific photos and videos to select groups of up to 15 friends (a number the CEO noted serendipitously, is the same as the number of seconds you can shoot in Instgram video) . The feature exists as a module in the Share To section of the app, showing a drop down of your friends. From there you can select who you want to receive a specific image or video, so if you want to, say, take a picture of your brunch, not every single follower has to look at your scrambled eggs.

All of the "moments" shared through the feature live in an inbox, so you can check out all of those photos in a private feed. Only people you follow can send you images and photos through direct and vice versa. If someone you don't follow attempts to send you something, you'll see a request from them. If you know the person but aren't interested in following them (too many scrambled eggs photos, no doubt), you can chose to receive direct moments from them without following them -- and you can always take them off that list at any time. When the user is still in pending mode, you wont be able to see the image they're sending, making it easier to ignore them.

You can send photos and videos with text, but not text alone, naturally. Images and videos, Systrom added, is what the new feature is all about. According to Systrom, the new feature is all about "connecting people around moments." Once a friend looks at the image, you'll see a check mark next to it. If they like it, you'll see a heart. It's not quite the ephemeral Snapchat-inspired update a number of outlets were predicted, but it'll likely push Instagram usage up even further, as users become less selective about what they send through the service. The update is available in the 5.0 versions of the iOS and Android apps today, by way of the Apple App Store and Google Play, just in time for selective holiday image sending. More info can be found in the source link below.

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Instagram debuts Direct, letting users share photos and videos with select friends