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And, action! Facebook brings video to Instagram

The social network plans to capture the next wave of sharing with a new video feature for posting bite-sized movies.

kevin systrom
James Martin/CNET

Facebook-owned Instagram is adding video, bringing an entirely new dimension to camera captures shared across the popular social-networking service.

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom showed off the new product to members of the media Thursday morning at its Menlo Park headquarters.

With video on Instagram, available right away on iOS and Android (video capture is only available to Android users running Jelly Bean or higher), application users will find a movie camera icon that they can tap to enter video mode and take up to 15 seconds of video, clip by clip. Like Vine, users can press and hold the movie button to capture video, and release to pause the capture to resume later. They can also delete individual snippets to re-record, and there's an option to switch between front- and back-facing cameras. Instagram even created 13 new filters just for the video offering, Systrom said, and members can choose a cover frame for display.

"Everything we know and love about Instagram, but it moves," Systrom said of video on Instagram.

But the feature that changes everything, Systrom said, is something Instagram calls "Cinema." Cinema is cinematic stabilization for videos and it acts as an automatic enhancer that spruces up members' 15-second videos.

Now playing: Watch this: Instagram adds video features

With the release, Facebook's Instagram, now with more than 130 million active users, finds itself in competition with Twitter-owned Vine, the iPhone and Android video application for weaving together itsy-bitsy clips into looping 6-second flicks that resemble animated GIFs. Vine has amassed 13 million registered users in just a few months and has become a preferred social media tool for celebrities and brands. The service's 6-second clips, however, don't play directly inside of Facebook, and social network users may prefer a video app that works with News Feed.

Video is still a difficult medium for technologists to get right, Brian Blau, research director of consumer technologies at Gartner, told CNET. It's a fact evidenced by the existence of a number of small, no-name mobile applications for posting video clips, but also by the rise and fall of SocialCam and Viddy: the two video-sharing applications billed themselves as the "Instagram of video," and grew their audiences on the back of Facebook, and then fell back into oblivion once the social network tweaked its formula to display fewer stories from these applications.

Video, said Blau, is still not something that's easy enough for all of us to make with the tools we have today. "I think that's one of the reasons why Vine was successful, because they've reduced the amount of user interface that it takes to create an interesting video to something that's really simple and basic," he said. "But is it the only user interface that you can think of to ... make a simple video? The answer is no."

But as far as consumer products launches go, Facebook has failed to capture the attention or imagination of its users with its most ambitious releases: Graph Search and Facebook Home. Even the bigger, bolder News Feed, arguably the most successful product launch this year, is still only available in extremely limited release, which suggests its internal business process around product launches is not refined enough to create success, Blau said. Company watchers will be tracking whether the video release from the Instagram team marks a departure from this lackluster cycle.

This story was updated as the news unfolded. The last update was made at 11 a.m. PT.