Facebook Thursday introduced video to its photo-sharing app Instagram, instantly catapulting the social network into one of the most popular emerging activities online and suggesting a potentially huge new advertising revenue stream.
Mark Zuckerberg introduced a "big idea from a very small team." And as expected, it's the 12-person team at Instagram (now more than triple that) that Facebook acquired. "We're really just getting started with this product," he said.
Facebook made the announcement at another of a recent series of press events on new products, this one in a stylish conference room scattered with easy chairs, couches, and small tables.
Some 16 billion photos shared on Instagram, a billion Likes are logged every day. About 130 million people use the service.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said when they joined Facebook, a lot of people wondered what Instagram was, so he shared a bunch of photos, naturally, to show how it's individual to each person using it, but all essentially sharing moments of their life.
Originally Instagram came from a service called Bourbon, which was a way to share location with photos – and videos. Mr. Systrom put that aside because it was really hard to do video.
Unlike Vine, which allows only six-second clips, the new videos on Instagram will allow 15 second clips.
"This is the same Instagram we all know and love," Mr. Systrom said. "But it moves."
The service includes 13 new filters – a trademark of Instagram's photo sharing – expressly for video.
One problem with mobile video is that often what you see is the first frame in the video, Mr. Systrom said. So people will be able to choose their still frame in Instagram.
Another key feature called Cinema stabilizes video so it doesn't look so shaky. "This changes everything," he said. And indeed, it looked pretty impressive.
The press had a bunch of questions:
Q: Will videos post natively on Facebook news feeds? Mr. Systrom said yes, just like a Facebook video.
Q: How much infrastructure load is this compared with Instagram photos? Mr. Systrom said it was a big undertaking, but he said the team has optimized it enough that he doesn't think it will be an issue.
Q: Why is six seconds not long enough? It's an artistic choice, Mr. Systrom said. In testing, 15 seconds felt right.
Q: Can you combine 15-second clips into longer clips? You can export the full video to the phone's camera roll, so editing can be done afterward, he said, but the point is to make it simple, so that's not something Instagram is emphasizing.
Q: What about the branding opportunities? This is really driven by consumer demand and not by business need, Mr. Systrom said. There's a natural business opportunity there. Over time, we'll figure out how advertising … will be OK on Instagram. But for now, we're perfectly happy with how brands are interacting on Instagram, which is organically.