Instagram on Thursday announced a new messaging feature during a press event in New York City. Available as of today, Instagram Direct allows users to send text messages, video and photo messages privately to other users - a feature that many believe has long since been missing from the service.

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said communication is not about photography, necessarily. If that were the case, Instagram would be built into cameras, not phones.

The new feature shows up in the Share To section of Instagram. It's here that you can select which of your friends to share a specific image or video with meaning you have to follow someone to share and vice versa. We're told that users can share individually or with up to 15 people at a time.

When you send someone a direct message that is online, their avatar will light up to indicate they've viewed or liked your message. Systrom said real time likes and chat bring the feature alive. And while you can send text along with your image or video, you can't send text by itself which means this probably won't be a serious threat to messaging services like Snapchat and WhatsApp.

In related news, the company also revealed they now have 150 million users worldwide, up from just 80 million at the start of 2013. What's more, more than half of the user base interacts with Instagram on a daily basis.

Instagram Direct is now available in the latest versions of Instagram, just click here to download.