Rumours surfaced at the end of November claiming that Instagram was plotting a messaging service to rival send-and-delete photo service Snapchat, and the firm put an end to the speculation on Thursday by announcing Instagram Direct.
The service does what it says on the tin, allowing Instagram users to send images and videos in direct messages to one another.
Instagram Direct lets users of the service send messages to up to 15 friends at once, much like Whatsapp, and allows groups to talk in real-time chats. Only people you follow can send you images and videos, Instagram said on Thursday, so you shouldn't have to worry about your inbox filling up with spam.
There's now an inbox logo on the top right hand corner of the app to access Instagram Direct, replacing the previous refresh button, which has been replaced with a pull to refresh function.
Instagram said, "There are moments in our lives that we want to share, but that will be the most relevant only to a smaller group of people - an inside joke between friends captured on the go, a special family moment or even just one more photo of your new puppy. Instagram Direct helps you share these moments.
"From how you capture photos and videos to the way you start conversations through likes and comments, we built Instagram Direct to feel natural to the Instagram experience you already know." Instagram Direct arrives in an update to the existing Instagram app, which is available to download for free from the iTunes App Store and Google Play store. The feature is not available yet for Windows Phone devices.