Users can now choose to share a photo with followers or send it to friends directly.
Instagram Direct's messages looks like a combo of the Instagram feed an a texting app.

Instagram's press event mystery has been solved. And no, it's not a printing service.

In today's announcement, the photo sharing social network just got a little less social and a little more private. Instagram users can now choose to share photos with individuals instead of sharing with all their followers.

Instagram Direct allows for private messaging of photos and videos and lets senders and recipients leave comments and like the photos privately. You can send the photos to multiple people at once, and access "Directs" from a new icon on the top-right corner of the feed.

From Instagram's official press release:

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. When you open Instagram, you’ll now see a new icon in the top right corner of your home feed. Tap it to open your inbox where you’ll see photos and videos that people have sent to you. To send a photo or video to specific people, tap the camera button to enter the same simple photo or video capture and editing screens. At the top of the share screen, you’ll see the option to share with your followers (“Followers”) or to send to specific people (“Direct”). To send using Direct, tap the names of the people you want to send your photo or video to, write your caption, tap “send” and you’re done.

After sending, you’ll be able to find out who’s seen your photo or video, see who’s liked it and watch your recipients commenting in real time as the conversation unfolds.

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.

Instagram's announcement comes just one day after Twitter allowed for direct messaging of photos. The two social networking giants are poised to compete with Snapchat's private, impermanent messaging service. 

Instagram Direct is available in Instagram's latest software update for all iOS devices running iOS 6 or later. Android users will be able to get the update today as well. Meanwhile, Instagram for Windows Phone 8 is still in beta.