What do mobile tech brands do when they begin to lose their core demographic?   They morph into competing spaces, or go retro and re-introduce functionality that we used years ago.

That’s exactly what Instagram did when it began offering something called Instagram Direct.  It’s a kind-of private messaging mode that lives along side Instagram’s main share-my-photos-with-the-world mode.  Remember, Instagram was bought by equally paranoid Facebook which is also struggling with a decline in coolness amongst the 18- 25 mobile-happy demographic.

And things are getting a little confusing on the messaging front according to recent press.

For example, a simple pattern emerges when you compare Facebook (NC @ 99 TrendSignal pts.), Instagram (-3 @ 93 pts.), and Snapchat (-3 @ 71 pts.). Each is trying to escape the overwrought structure of the other by going back to basics.  Before you know it, we’ll be looking at an SMS?

Instagram carved out the extraneous article linking, side apps, and creepily hollow lifeline by focusing only on pictures. Snapchat cut even deeper, rebelling against the archiving itself, freeing users from having to double- and triple-think how they would be perceived through their cyber life, and instead encouraged an improvisational free-for-all where impulse mattered more than interpretation. In predictable fashion, the more successful a company is in separating itself from the market leader, the more desirable it becomes for acquisition.

Ironically, this phenomenon only leads companies to pay for things that they already have. Since Facebook couldn’t buy what it already had from Snapchat earlier this year, it has instead paid for Instagram to rebuild a feature that Facebook has already built with Instagram Direct. The new feature will allow Instagram users to privately send photos to specific friends without having to worry about them being logged into their main photo archive. The feature is new to Instagram, and directly mimics Snapchat, but is redundant to almost every other communication technology of the last decade.