Facebook announces video service for Instagram

June 20, 2013

Facebook introduced a new video feature for its popular Instagram photo-sharing site Thursday, which will allow users to shoot and edit short clips from their smartphones.

That means that not only can you snap pictures of your meal — you can show yourself eating it, too.

Users can start making their short masterpieces by way of an additional “video mode” built into Instagram’s existing app the will let them record up to 15 seconds of video — much longer than the 6 seconds offered by Twitter’s competing Vine service.

The Instagram team tested several time limits as it built the new feature, said Instagram chief executive and co-founder Kevin Systrom, weighing the length users may need to create meaningful video while still making the clips brief enough to share easily with friends.

“It’s the right balance,”said Systrom, who anchored the launch event from Facebook’s California headquarters.

Making videos works much the same way it does on Vine: Users in video mode can tap their phones to start and stop their recording. The video feature also lets users delete portions of videos they have recorded, a feature that’s not currently available in Vine. And Instagram has included another feature that Vine users don’t have: 13 of its signature filters specifically designed for videos.

In addition to all that, Instagram has also included a stabilization feature called Cinema that’s aims to eliminate those shaky handheld shots and makes your videos a little steadier. An app update that includes the new features is available for download Thursday.

Systrom said that he and co-founder Mike Krieger had wanted to incorporate video into an early Instagram predecessor, but left “video on the side” because it wanted to focus on speed and simplicity — something he said wasn’t an option for video when the service was first being developed two years ago.

He also provided some updated statistics on Instagram’s growth. Systrom said that 130 million people use Instagram every month. He also said that 16 billion photos have been shared on Instagram and that the photo site gets about a billion likes every day.

The announcement comes as Facebook continues to improve advertising revenue on its Web and mobile platforms and continues to try and improve its appeal among younger users, who have begun turning to Facebook alternatives, including image-sharing services such as Snapchat and Vine.

The longer video format could appeal to companies trying to build strong branding on Instagram, and could eventually provide an attractive format for ads down the road. In fact, Lululemon is using the new video feature to promote its yoga gear.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg spoke briefly at the event, which was also livestreamed, and said that Instagram would continue to evolve.

“We’re just really getting started with this product,” Zuckerberg said.

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Related stories:

Facebook may be planning Vine-like service for Instagram, report says

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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