Facebook Inc's Instagram added new features on Tuesday allowing users to exchange messages in private and group conversations as the photo and video-sharing service aims to keep up with growing messaging service Snapchat.
The upgrade by Instagram, which has more than 300 million users, is the latest move in the escalating battle for a young audience addicted to messaging with younger and hipper rival Snapchat, which has 100 million users and growing.
The new features mean Instagram users can share pictures directly with one friend or a group of people and send back text responses or pictures, which Instagram hopes will make users want to stay on its mobile app or web site longer.
Young mobile users are increasingly interested in messaging friends and having conversations online, rather than merely viewing content. As much as 40 percent of all comments on Instagram posts mention other accounts, Instagram said, suggesting that many users like to flag content to users they know and start conversations about it.