This afternoon Facebook held an event to announce video capture would finally be available to Instagram's 130 million users. The experience of creating a video is ripped right from Vine (touch and hold to record, lift your finger to pause), which is good because Vine was the first mobile video product to be welcomingly easy to use. Instagram video also has some interesting new bells and whistles that differentiate it from its video predecessors-- video stabilization, filters, and the ability to import content, to name a few. With Instagram video you certainly have the ability to create a more visually compelling product than ever before, in a way that feels very native to the Instagram experience. But I have to ask, after the initial excitement is over, will people really want that?
Part of the magic of Instagram is its innate ability to make any photo instantly attractive. It essentially created the idea of "one touch magic button" apps that is now a benchmark for how simple and powerful a mobile product should be. But while adding stabilization and a filter might make any video more attractive than it was to start with, it does not in itself make every video interesting enough to spend 15 seconds with. In fact, applying the promise of Instagram magic to video content might even make viewers more upset when they stop flipping through beautiful photos long enough to watch.
That's my biggest concern with Instagram video. It's great that Instagram has developed such amazing tools to make regular video better looking. But if the Instagram community starts being bogged down by :15 second videos that would have been a lot more interesting and native to the experience as photos, it will make spending time in Instagram a lot more weighty. Almost like your friends ran a :15 second ad in the middle of your beautiful photo stream. I'm already feeling this in the first day-- browsing the feed is slower, and it's more complicated to discover new interesting content in the "Explore" tab. Myself and many others open Instagram countless times a day to briefly scan through the latest photos for a moment break and smile. A steady stream of sub-par video will make that a bigger lift, and less enjoyable.
Now how does this all compare to Vine? Vine has been so successful because if provides the right balance of capability and confinement. In 6 seconds people can be as creative as they want to be (and there's been some truly impressive Vine art). But 6 seconds also limits uninteresting content in a way that doesn't disrupt the flow of scanning content that is necessary in social platforms like these. Vine's limitations somehow lower the bar for what video content has to achieve to be compelling, and that's what so differentiating and impressive about it. It's also established itself for what it is-- browsing the Vine stream you get exactly the experience you're looking for. Wouldn't it be strange if people could suddenly start taking pictures with their Vine app?
So while I'm very impressed with the video product that Instagram has put together, and I'll probably even use it every once in a while, I don't think it's going to be the market disrupter that Instagram originally was. I don't think it's going to be the magic bullet to make ammateur video instantly more proliffic and compelling than before. And I do actually think one of two things will happen-- people will not use it all that often, or Instagram will add some sort of view filter that lets people browse only photos if they want to, to preserve the amazing experience they've been cultivating since their launch. And Vine, and other single-purpose apps, will continue to flourish despite Facebook's relentless attempt to take the whole cake.
At least I hope so.
Disclaimer: The SS+K Lab that I co-founded built the popular Vine search engine VineViewer and has previously built applications for Instagram, as well. We love both equally :)
Posted by Kevin Skobac at 9:19:00 AM