Instagram Direct (iPhone screenshot 002)Instagram Direct (iPhone screenshot 001)

And just like clockwork, Instagram’s newly-updated mobile app is now live in the App Store with support for Instagram Direct, a new feature announced just an hour ago at the company’s Share a Moment media event in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. This capability that some mistakenly refer to as a private messaging feature introduces much-needed granularity to sharing by allowing users to send a photo or video not only to a group of their Instagram followers, but also to those not following them on the service…

Unfortunately, Instagram 5.0 still has the old non-flattened icon, though the user interface appears to have been flattened more, with new buttons everywhere. On a brighter note, Instagram 5.0 brings back the useful pull-to-refresh feature!

To send someone a photo or video, go to the camera interface, select the images and choose to share either with your followers (Followers) or specific people (Direct). You can also write photo captions, if you want. Folks concerned about privacy needn’t worry as these posts won’t appear in feed, search or your profile.

To see photos and videos others have shared with you, hit a new icon in the top right corner of your home feed. If you receive a photo or video from a person you’re not following, you’ll have the option of approving or rejecting the sharing request.

Instagram Direct (iPhone screenshot 003)Instagram Direct (iPhone screenshot 004)

When a person accepts your request, your post will go to his or her direct posts the next time you share directly with them. The same works the other way – if someone you’re not following sends you Instagram Direct requests, you can either ignore one request at a time or all at once by hitting the Ignore All button.

Note that posts that stay in the requests queue may become unavailable after a while.

And to deal with abuse and stalkers, you have three choices: report abusive posts, ignore the sharing request in your direct posts by tapping the X button or block them.

Instagram Direct (iPhone screenshot 005)Instagram Direct (iPhone screenshot 006)

When you accept requests, future shared posts from that person go straight to your direct posts. Deleting a sent Instagram Direct post wipes it from Instagram entirely so those you’ve shared it with won’t be able to see it anymore.

You can send a post to up to fifteen people with Instagram Direct, by the way.

It’s nice that actions on shared content appear in real-time in the Instagram app, including likes and favorites. Another nice touch: you can see who’s seen your photo or video. Likewise, everyone that you’ve sent a photo or video can see its likes or comments, in real-time, even if they don’t follow each other.

According to Instagram, you can’t tag people or use hashtags in Instagram Direct posts or share them through Instagram to other sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Your release notes:

Introducing Instagram Direct!

We’re excited to introduce Instagram Direct, a new way to send photo and video messages to your friends.

Now you’ll see a new icon in the top right corner of your home feed. Tap it to see photos and videos that people have sent directly to you.

To send your own photos or videos, choose Direct instead of Followers once you’ve edited your post. When you’re done editing, just choose the people you want to share with.

Today’s update also includes bug fixes and performance improvements

To learn more about Instagram Direct, check out our write-up, see the Instagram blog, read the FAQ or watch the official Instagram Direct promotional video on Vimeo.

Instagram 5.0 is available free in the App Store.