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Instagram's messaging feature may rattle Snapchat

Instagram messages are here, and it looks like Snapchat may have a reason to be worried.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, unveiled its messaging service at a press event in New York on Thursday.

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom at Instagram Direct unveiling in December 2013.
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom at Instagram Direct unveiling in December 2013.

The system, called Instagram Direct, lets users share photo and videos with individuals or groups of up to 15 people.

(Read more: Snapchat turns down $3 billion cash offer from Facebook)

Users can add filters to their messages, and recipients can respond with a text message, an image or a video of their own.

Unlike Snapchat, though, Instagram's messages won't disappear.

"There is room for ephemerality, but Instagram is more focused on archiving," Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said at the event.

(Read more: Who's viewing your Instagram, and profiting from it?)

Instagram Direct
Source: Instagram
Instagram Direct

Besides filters, Instagram Direct doesn't have additional tools for editing and individualizing images —part of Snapchat's appeal.

Such features may be added eventually, Systrom said, stressing that this is just the first version of the product.

(Read more: Why Snapchat will be big for advertisers: Pro)

By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.

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