As expected, Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) used its Thursday mystery event to announce video for Instagram. Instagram users will now be able to record up to 15 seconds of video and share them using the existing interface. There will be 13 filters to apply to the Instagram videos, and a “Cinema” feature to stabilize videos.
The only real surprise of the day was the announcement that Instagram videos will not loop. Many expected that video for Instagram would be a more direct competitor to the Vine app by Twitter, which allows users to take six-second videos that infinitely loop. The looping feature has led to some of the more creative uses of Vine, and it will be interesting to see how users react.
At the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced Kevin Systrom, CEO of the subsidiary Instagram. Systrom said that since Instagram launched in 2010, more than 16 billion photos have been shared on the network, and 130 million active Instagram users now record more than 1 billion “likes” daily.
Instagram still looks the same, but now there is a video button in the lower right. In video mode there is a capture button, and holding it down will record frames of video, just like Vine, for a minimum of three seconds and a maximum of 15. Within those 15 seconds, there is no limit to the amount of frames a user can record.
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“It’s the right balance between not too short, and not having to worry about upload times,” Systrom said.
Users can also choose one of the frames to serve as a thumbnail image of the video clip when they finally share it. Each segment is broken onto a timeline as it records, so if one gets messed up, a user can simply tap it and delete. These are both very useful functions that are not available with Vine.
Systrom stressed that the new video function will integrate into the rest of Instragram functionality. Hashtags will work the same, and videos will appear in the same Instagram feed with a small video icon. Video will work on both Android and iOS devices and play on the Web's Instagram hub too. There will be 13 filters for users to choose from in Instagram video.
“It’s everything we know about Instagram, but it moves,” Systrom said.
"Cinema," the video stabilization program in Instagram video, has the potential to make video for Instagram truly stand out. Systrom demonstrated it on stage, and if the demonstration was true to life, it very impressively smoothed out the “shaky cam” effect common to filming video on a smartphone.
Instagram will not allow users to import video from their camera roll, and there are currently no plans to bring Instagram to Windows Phone or Google Glass. When asked about the business implications of video for Instagram, Systrom said the video function wasn’t designed with advertisers in mind.
“Over time, we’ll figure out a way that it’s okay and useful,” Systrom said. “Right now, we’re perfectly happy with the organic use of Instagram by brands.”
The stock market was not impressed with the Instagram announcement from Facebook. At the time of writing, Facebook stock has dropped 0.33 points, and has fallen 2.38 percent so far on Thursday. But that came amid a general market plunge.
Still, Vine has proven to very popular and successful for Twitter. It earned a user base of 13 million in just six months, a feat that took Instagram more than a year to achieve. Vine videos are now shared more often than Instagram photos, but if Instagram's 130 million users start using Instagram to share video instead of Vine, the results could be huge.
As an interesting side note: Vine (which is owned by Twitter) promoted a tweet during the Facebook event. The tweet linked to Vine’s blog, which stated “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing some exciting new parts of Vine.” Will Vine be adding some of the features that just debuted in Instagram?