Facebook has added video capability to Instagram, its popular service for sharing photographs, putting itself in a competition with Vine, a similar service from Twitter:

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.

Hayley Tsukayama

Vine and Instagram’s new video feature have several differences, but the longer time limit on Instagram may be the most important:

Instagram offers users 15 seconds to Vine’s six — two-and-a-half times the video fun. The longer time-limit is supposed to make it easier for more people to shoot videos, since you don’t have to ration your time quite as jealously as you do with Vine.

More time is not always a good thing. If you have something really fun to film, then it gives you a lot of room to run. But if the video’s boring, fifteen seconds can seem like a lifetime. (At least a waste of time.)

But asking people to take more time to watch your content means there could actually be a higher bar for what makes a good video on Instagram — or at least a lower tolerance threshold for subpar work.

Hayley Tsukayama

Facebook is adding video to its popular photo-sharing app Instagram, following in the heels of Twitter's growing video-sharing app, Vine. (Associated Press)

Instagram’s video format is fun, though most of the content will probably be rather banal, according to one review:

Vine has just 13 million users (one-tenth of Instagram’s user base), and no other video-sharing apps have attracted mass appeal. Part of the reason: technical limitations. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom said during the service’s unveiling that the video feature was initially left out of Instagram because the “speed, simplicity and beauty” the creators strived for in the app “were definitely possible with photos — but it was really hard for video.”. . .

Systrom’s third aspiration, beauty, is harder to gauge. Since it’s only been a few hours since video’s launch on Instagram, I’m withholding judgment. Hopefully my friends will take the same sort of care and artistic curation with their videos as they do with their snapshots—which, of course, means I can expect tons of videos of babies crawling, dinner dishes waiting to be eaten, cocktails getting shaken, bunnies munching on parsley and waves crashing on the beaches of Greece.

Actually that doesn’t sound so bad. The beauty of Instagram is that it offers a glimpse into people’s lives that’s difficult to put into words.

Associated Press

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