All signs point to the announcement of video for Instagram tomorrow: The invitations were sent out, a few inside reports that a team was working on the feature leaked, and then Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom went ahead and canceled his appearance at Cannes Lions advertising festival this week. Also, two years ago he said this:
“I don’t see a future where video isn’t a part of Instagram in some way, it’s a matter of when.”
It’s all but official – Instagram is about to become a very different app.
Before we dive into all the “do we want an Instagram for video?” of it all, it should be obvious why this is happening. Vine has proven itself a hit in its infancy and while there are reasons why the app fares better on Twitter than Instagram does (really obvious, noteworthy reasons), it’s still managed to attain viral use – matching the same engagement rates as YouTube on Twitter is pretty impressive (although, again, Vine is owned by Twitter, and heavily promoted by it, so … common sense, OK?).
But Vine’s rise alone isn’t the only reason Facebook is looking at creating a competitor; it’s – again – because Twitter owns it. Facebook wants something similar under its umbrella, since it can’t won’t embed Vines directly into its platform. The turf war between Twitter and Facebook rears its head yet again! Twitter won’t give Instagram Twitter card support, and Facebook won’t give Vine access to its contacts, nor will it support the file; you’re bumped out to Vine.co instead.
At least this time the pissing match between these two is resulting in more products instead of just less access, like it usually does. There’s our silver lining in all this.
A video element for Facebook – something that serves as a surrogate for the full Vine functionality – just makes way too much damn sense. This is especially true because Instagram doesn’t hold the top spot when it comes to sharing stills either: That distinction now goes to Snapchat. Clearly, Facebook is interesting in doing something to regain traction.
But business sense, be damned, because you’re all going to hate it, for a few reasons.
New Facebook feature = hate autopilot
Facebook could release an app that shoots money at you out of your computer screen and somebody would be like, “What’s next?! Why don’t you just steal my information/content/first-born/soul while you’re at it! I’m quitting!” This person would proceed to air their complaints on every tech site about said release while generously mixing in references to 1984 or Big Brother (which though justified, is not particularly relevant to this situation). This person also would not quit Facebook, but instead wildly shake his or her fist upon each login.
It’s a cycle we’ve got down pat. Facebook can inspire user outrage the likes of which are rarely seen, and that’s because a lot of users have invested a lot of time into it. So it stands to reason that fussing with Instagram is going to end the exact same way.
Remember when we switched to the Timeline? Sure, the profile page is an important element that we’d become used to … but it wasn’t this feature that people absolutely loved and used and updated and indulged in. Instagram is all of those things, so you can expect that many of the purists out there are ready to rebel.
So to an extent, regardless of what Facebook is about to show off, we’re just going to hate it.
We could be creating a self-aware monster
If you thought that Instagram was already chock full of self-indulgent photos, just you wait until its legions of writers can post filtered mini-testimonials. A la …
Can you imagine what #ThrowbackThursdays would be like? People will start digging through their parents old home videos, and then try to find a VCR, and then shoot footage to be filtered of a screen playing said video.
Sure, there’s plenty of “look at me!” already going on inside Instagram, but it stands to reason that adding a video feature would only increase it. And as someone who enjoys the respite from all the self promotion going on in social media, that would be an unfortunate new trend.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
To a certain degree, your hate isn’t without reason this time, because Instagram with video sort of stops being Instagram. Even though Systrom alluded to including video at some point, it’s tempering with something that has created a loyalty and community that’s incredibly unique to the mobile-social world.
Vine and Instagram are very, very different places: The former is full of short comedic riffs or cutesy animation. They’re (generally) funny little snippets. Instagrams, on the other hand, are taken and filtered with an almost-absurd degree of consideration (there are debates over the best filters for the best situations, in fact). There’s a market for getting other users’ Instagram stills printed – when you think about it, a fairly insane concept, but one that speaks to what this app did to the photography and art markets.
Vine is certainly interesting, but who’s to say it isn’t a fad? If the choice to introduce video to Instagram truly is a reactionary one, it’s also a bit presumptuous.
In a more tangible way, it would also change Instagram’s infrastructure. Creating and hosting video is a bigger, more demanding task than stills. It could make the whole experience much less snappy. Sometimes, simplicity wins.
We don’t even know if what this video feature does will ape the whole GIF-ish, looping effect Vine has – and if it doesn’t, then what would make it so different from Viddy? The app offers filtered videos – it’s even one of Facebook’s official apps.
The question that really begs to be asked is whether we really want our Instagram with a side of video. There’s something to be said for doing one thing and doing it well – and while Facebook’s motivations for entering this market are as clear as can be, there’s plenty to be skeptical about.
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