Instagram, take two: Video is the new picture

<b>commentary</b> Copycat though it may be, Facebook's Instagram is in the best position to introduce mobile video sharing to the masses.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
3 min read
Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom shows off his application's newest feature: video. James Martin/CNET

Instagram has video -- 15-second, filtered, camera-stabilized miniature movies, to be exact. But more importantly, with the release, video will finally get its moment in the spotlight.

Thursday, Facebook-owned Instagram added video sharing, giving members a way to capture up to 15 seconds of video and frame their footage, using a filter or automatic camera stabilization, in the best light possible.

Though the product bears resemblance to Twitter's Vine, which allows for 6-second clips, Instagram video comes with the qualities that its built-in audience of more than 130 million people have grown to love: it dramatically improves upon the act of capturing video. It's as if Instagram is repeating history, doing for video what it's already done for the photo by making the medium approachable to the masses.

As Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said, it's "everything we know and love about Instagram, but it moves."

Sure, Instagram is standing on the backs of Vine and a myriad of other mobile video-sharing services, but such was the case when Instagram first launched with its beautifully simple approach to immediate photo sharing.

"Who would have thought, before Instagram, that we needed yet another camera app?" Gartner Research Director of Consumer Technologies Brian Blau told CNET.

The application didn't invent photo sharing. Instead, it carved out a new category in social networking by making the behavior something that everyone with an iPhone, and later an Android device, could enjoy.

"Instagram mastered the art of capturing something important and making it look as important as it does in the real world," Brian Solis, Altimeter group principal analyst, told CNET.

Three years later, video is ripe for a similar renaissance.

To date, video has been the chimera of app makers looking to get rich quick by emulating Instagram. The medium has been a difficult one for technologists to master, Blau said. SocialCam and Viddy, each of which offer people a way to shoot and share short videos, grew rapidly but fell off in popularity just as quickly, in part because both were dependent on Facebook to promote application actions.

With Facebook as owner, Instagram video won't have the distribution problem or user retention issues of the apps that came before it. In fact, the social network is doing its part to promote cross-posted Instagram videos in News Feed by making them as large and arresting as possible. On desktop, Facebook users will glimpse a full-width video in their stream, instead of a thumbnail. And because the clips are no more than 15 seconds and shouldn't induce nausea, people may be more inclined to click to watch, like, and react to the videos their friends share.

"We're finally seeing the dawn of ... mobile video finding a way to help people better communicate," Solis said of Instagram video. "One of the challenges that mobile video has had over the years is that while it's easy to capture and share moments across social platforms, for the most part, those videos were incredibly painful to endure."

Instagram corrects for those issues with instant video fixer-uppers: filters and camera stabilization, the latter of which Solis believes is especially key. People won't have to take Dramamine to watch a mobile video, he said.

The Facebook-effect should also prove quite significant in helping video-sharing from smartphones break out and become as commonplace as photo sharing. The potential is for a cyclical, psychologically rewarding effect where users create and share pleasant-to-view videos to Facebook that generate "likes" and comments, which spawns more sharing and encourages more people to do the same.

Really, Instagram video is Facebook video, and for most social networkers, it'll become the first application they think of when they want to share a life-like mini movie with friends.

Watch this: Facebook unveils Instagram video