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Instagram wants to make the world better 15 seconds at a time

Like Facebook, Instagram is pitched as the next incarnation of the polio vaccine, destined to change the world for the better. More practically, it's a nice app for sharing photos and videos.

Instagram's Kevin Systrom rolls out 15-second videos for 130 million users, June 20, 2013. James Martin/CNET

In simpler times, Instagram would promote itself as an easy-to-use, fun photo-sharing service. People take pictures, and now videos, add a filter, comment, and blast them out for others to view instantly. In the hands of its owner, Facebook, Instagram is about making the world a better place.

In his scripted introduction of Video for Instragram, co-founder Kevin Systrom hewed perfectly to Facebook's mission to give "people the power to share and make the world more open and connected."

"Our collective belief is that the world is better off captured and shared," said Systrom, who sold Instagram and its 13 employees to Facebook in April 2012 for for what began as a $1 billion deal. He talked about how Instagram is a way for people to come together and stay connected, transcending language, geography and cultural boundaries. Through Instagram, he went on, users can learn about ideas and causes that improve the world. They can laugh, enjoy the simple things in life, express love. In other words, despite its separate domain and staff, Instagram is Facebook.

Now playing: Watch this: Facebook unveils Instagram video

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Systrom tout Instagram, with its hockey stick growth and zero revenue, as if it were the next incarnation of the polio vaccine. In their reality, the app has to aspire to be world changing and capable of achieving great heights of simplicity and beauty, and, by virtue of its inherent goodness, it will be bathed in popularity and adulation.

These superego values are at the core of the Facebook belief system, similar to that of Apple and Google. With evangelistic fervor and a sense of manifest destiny, they need to believe that they are doing something far more profound than building a cool app, platform, or gadget to satisfy their competitive juices and enrich themselves and shareholders. And, to some extent what they, and the Internet in general, are creating is contributing to improving the world by enabling information to flow freely and instantly.

Of course, the quest to change the world for the better is at times competing with the desire to dominate a category and reach great heights of revenue and profit. With 1.1 billion users and growing, Facebook has effectively colonized a large portion of the planet and is profiting from the ambitious venture. Instagram has grown from 30 million users to more than 130 million in just over a year.

In a less ethereal light, Instagram with video is an app that captures 15-second videos, provides 13 unique filters, let's you chose a cover shot and stabilizes wobbly frames. It's also a me-too app, buttressed by Facebook's large global footprint and infrastructure, preceded by Tout, SocialCam, Viddy, and more recently Twitter's Vine.

Systrom said the the new Cinema video image stabilization feature is "completely mindblowing" and "changes everything." The description is over-enthusiastic, but Facebook has apparently figured out how to bring enough speed to 15-second video processing speed to make the user experience similar to uploading static images.

In his closing remarks at the launch, Systrom said, "It's the same Instagram that we all know and love but it moves." That statement nicely sums up the new feature added to the app.

What's next for Instagram? Adding 140-character or 200-character messages without requiring pictures or videos to match Twitter's features? Whatever it is, Facebook/Instagram will describe it as another giant step for mankind.