In defense of Facebook: Instagram video is necessary (and awesome)
Facebook is an easy target: It’s a huge company that often makes major missteps. In its quest to become the dominating force in Silicon Valley—and the world—the social network rewrites policies, introduces new designs, and changes the experience of using Facebook sometimes without a thought to what the people want.
Now the people want to create their own content—videos, animated GIFs, playlists, photos—and share it with everyone they know and even those they don’t know. Social networks can either facilitate that sharing or get left behind.
Facebook is taking a lot of heat this week for bringing video to Instagram. The network is definitely not reinventing the wheel. But Instagram video was a natural and important progression. The app grew out of a location-sharing startup called Burbn, which had photo and video elements. Instagram cofounders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger decided to focus on photos, but video was always lingering in the background.
Cream of the crop
Here’s the thing: Vine didn’t invent social video. To suggest that shooting short clips and uploading them to the Internet was invented six months ago is laughable. Obviously Facebook would like to give Twitter a run for its money, but Instagram video isn’t a Vine rip-off. It’s an easy-to-use and seamless part of the app’s experience.
Facebook should innovate more, and lead the pack rather than react to its competitors. There are many products it should work on and roll out sooner rather than later. But this week’s announcement was about Instagram, which has 130 million monthly active users and continues to grow at a steady clip. It needs new features just as badly as Facebook does.
When Facebook bought Instagram and claimed the photo-sharing app would continue to operate independently, skeptics shook their heads. But Facebook is sticking to its word. During Thursday’s Instagram video announcement at Facebook headquarters, Mark Zuckerberg took the stage briefly to introduce Systrom, then disappeared. The event was at Facebook, but it was all about Instagram.
Race to the top
Video presents new money-making opportunities for Instagram, and Systrom said as much during Thursday’s announcement. There are no immediate plans to fold in ads, but Instagram has to seriously start thinking about ways to justify Facebook’s $1 billion splurge.
Instagram video is clearly catching on: 5 million videos were uploaded in the first day after launching, the company told TechHive. Vine reportedly sees 1 million uploads a day—but its user base is also much smaller (at last check, 13 million to Instagram’s 130 million).
The social space is crowded. Mobile and video are at the top of every developer’s priority list, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for apps and services to differentiate themselves. It’s not really about who comes up with an idea first—it’s about who does it best. If the competition between Vine and Instagram forces both companies to create better products, everyone wins.