Instagram's foray into video represents the company's first shift away from pure photo sharing. But video is something Systrom says the company has been working on since September 2010.
"This is the same Instagram that you know and love, but it moves," Systrom said of the update, which is available for both iOS and Android starting today.
Video clips on Instagram can be between 3 and 15 seconds long. Fifteen seconds also happens to be the length of typical web ads. And Ad Age reported on April 16 that Facebook was preparing to launch 15-second video advertisements in June or July 2013. And this week they reported that the ads would be pushed back until the fall, because Facebook has new features "it wants to release concurrently with video ads, and they require more software development." Valleywag's Sam Biddle reports that at least two brands--Lululemon and Burberry--are already using Video on Instagram for marketing.
Video on Instagram also comes with a set of 13 new filters. As with photographs, you can apply different filters to videos and instantly see the effects in a playback mode before you post a final version. And because the videos show up on your Instagram profile, there's an option to choose a custom poster frame from your clip, rather than defaulting to the opening frame.
Video for Instagram also includes a feature called Cinema, which Systrom calls "cinematic stabilization that will change video forever." Essentially, Cinema corrects for common human errors in video shooting, such as wobbliness.
One difference between videos and photos: You can only upload videos that you record within the Instagram app, whereas with photos, you can import images previously saved to your camera roll.
Instagram's most obvious play here is for Vine, the Twitter-owned mobile instant video app that spits out shareable, six-second vignettes. Earlier this month, Twitter announced in a blog post that Vine's iPhone and Android apps have clocked 13 million registered users.
Although Vine's 13 million users are nothing to scoff at, Instagram has now reached more than 130 million monthly active users who have shared 16 billion photos on the network. Along the way, it has managed to cultivate and maintain a strong brand equity that staff writer Austin Carr likens to Pixar within Disney in his new profile of Systrom's Instagram. Much of that equity is based in the app's clean, dead-simple user experience that makes Instagram feel "like a piece of glass that you are flowing through," in the words of cofounder Mike Krieger.
The addition of video poses new challenges for Instagram as Systrom and his new director of business operations, Emily White, determine how to make money off the app's runaway success without alienating its dedicated users.
[Image: Flickr user Jay Cameron]