Facebook adds video clips to Instagram app

Instagram Users can apply 13 different filters to their video clips

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Users of Facebook's photo-sharing app, Instagram, will now be able to take videos as well as still photographs, the social network has announced.

In a press conference, Instagram's chief executive Kevin Systrom said the app would allow them to make clips lasting between three and 15 seconds.

Users will also be able to add the distinctive filters that epitomise Instagram photographs.

The app will vie with Twitter's Vine, which also lets users share video.

The Instagram update will allow iPhone and Android users to record and stitch together their clips to form a "collage", which can then have one of 13 customisable filters applied to them.

These can make the clips black-and-white, add a blur-effect or otherwise alter the footage.

In addition, iPhone users are offered a "cinema" facility, which stabilises the clips to counteract camera shake.

"Fifteen seconds of video [is] the right balance between not-too-short that constrains your creativity and not-too-long where you end up having to wait a lot of time for something to download," said Mr Systrom.

The time limit is more than double that offered by Vine's six-second clip service.

Other differences include the fact that Instagram's videos do not loop, and that its users can choose their thumbnail images.

Vine is expected to announce new features of its own over the coming days after its co-founders uploaded aseries of clips teasing an update.

It was always part of the plan - that's what Facebook says about the video feature in Instagram.

The social network insists that Kevin Systrom, Instagram's founder and very much still in charge of the photo-sharing app, had thought from the start that video would be a good idea.

Nothing to do, then, with rival Twitter's successful launch of its own video-sharing app Vine.

It is hard though to believe that Mark Zuckerberg didn't give Mr Systrom the odd nudge during one of their regular chats and ask: "How's that moving picture widget coming along?"

Because Facebook is now focused almost entirely on its mobile platform, and Instagram is right at the centre of that - even if many of its users may not realise it is owned by the social network.

Far from melting away, as many predicted, user numbers have climbed rapidly since last April's takeover. Now it hopes video will grow the audience further.

One big question remains unanswered - just how Facebook will start making money from the app.

With plenty of brands already interested, there's talk of providing a high-end glossy magazine environment for advertisers. There's also a great deal of caution about doing anything to alienate users.

Because the key is to keep the audience growing and engaged - if Instagramming goes out of fashion, there'll be nothing to sell to the advertisers.

Rivalling YouTube

Facebook acquired Instagram last year for more than $700m (£450m).

Mr Systrom said the service was currently used by 130 million people a month and that 16 billion photos had been shared on it.

In May, market analysts at comScore said Facebook was now also the second biggest US online video site, beaten only by YouTube.

"Mobile and video are going to be key to Facebook going forward," said Ovum analyst Eden Zoller.

"Launching video for Instagram is a logical next step. The only surprising thing is that it didn't do it sooner."

But, she added, Facebook would be under close scrutiny.

"It has had some launches recently, like Facebook Home, that have been done with great fanfare but don't seem to have made a huge impact. Whatever it does with video, it will have to do well."

Brian Blau, an analyst at tech consultants Gartner, noted that Instagram was not the first to offer video filters, but predicted the facility would prove popular.

"The question will be: Are filters enough?" he added.

"I don't necessarily think so. There are other elements to post-production, such as adding titles or improving lighting, that may be more useful."

Micro-video services compared

Service Platform Clip length Description

Vine

Vine

iOS and Android

Six seconds

Bought out by Twitter last year, Vine's main selling point is its close integration with the micro-blogging site, as well as an innovative tap-and-hold recording interface.

Flickr

Flickr logo

iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, mobile web

90 seconds

Flickr did short video before it was cool - but having dropped the functionality from its recently revamped mobile apps. It does not seem to be a priority for the Yahoo-owned photography site.

Tout

Tout logo

iOS and Android

15 seconds

Tout offers access to a stream of recently uploaded clips, but its strategy focuses on promoting "channels" - content posted by users working for or otherwise associated with specific brands. Wrestling promoter WWE, the Wall Street Journal, the BBC and shoe firm Zappos are all involved.

Instagram

Instagram logo

iOS and Android

15 seconds

The photo app soared to popularity thanks to its good-looking filters. Now, and under the ownership of Facebook, Instagram is looking to apply the same filtering ideas to video.

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