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Why Instagram Video Isn’t A Threat To Twitter’s Vine

Yesterday Facebook-owned Instagram launched a new video feature which allows Instagram users, all 100+ million of them, to record Vine-style videos on the fly.

The difference? Instagram’s videos can be as long as 15-seconds, compared to Vine’s six seconds, and Instagram users can also add one of any thirteen filters on the fly to their video content. Pretty darn cool.

So, here’s the billion-dollar question: given Instagram’s size and clout, does this mean the end of Vine?

In short: no, not in my opinion. And I’m about to tell you why. First, let’s take a look at the Instagram video about Instagram video, which is very Apple-esque, and, accordingly, rather nice.

Love that pipe-smoking dog. Everything they’ve shown here as examples of content you might want to record are great. Except… all of these examples are pretty short. Like, a few seconds short. When you record a video on Instagram, 15 seconds feels like an eternity. I know – it sounds mad. But, certainly when you’re used to Vine, 15-seconds feels like an awfully long time to record anything that’s supposed to be of the moment.

Yep, you can record shorter videos – the minimum is 3 seconds and you could, of course, just record 6-second “Vines” directly on Instagram – but I propose that this disparity makes the product confusing, especially when you first use the product. You need to find appropriate content to fit a space of somewhere between three and 15 seconds. This is a bigger deal than it might first appear.

Moreover, for the viewer, with Vine they (again) know what to expect: a short looping video. When I load up an Instagram video, am I getting 15 seconds of footage? Three? Five? 10? Who knows? Again, this might sound like a non-problem, but think about how you feel when you open a video on YouTube and it turns out to be longer than what you were hoping for. What’s your next step? You hit the back button.

Evidently Facebook went with 15-seconds because it’s the same size as a regular TV advertisement in the U.S. Which, from a business perspective, is smart thinking. But from a user’s perspective, it feels off.

Two, the filters are actually pretty mediocre. While they apply immediately, which is nice, the differences are super-subtle and not of much practical use.

Three, and this is kind of a big deal – Vine embeds a heck of a lot better around the interwebs. This is open to change, of course, and Instagram has always been primarily a mobile space, but it is a factor.

I’m not a big Instagram user so this update isn’t really aimed at me. But what’s clear is that Facebook has been startled by the success of Vine (which has already surpassed Instagram shares on Twitter) and this is very clearly an attempt to capitalise on that with what they feel is a superior product, but I think they’ve misunderstood what the market wants from these short videos. This is understandable, because the market didn’t know that it even wanted a short video sharing platform until Vine came along. Much like they did with Twitter, Twitter created something out of nothing with Vine. There was no precedent. But now there is, and Facebook borrowing this on the fly video format, but removing the agreed duration and more than doubling the amount of time that you can record, instinctively feels like a mistake.

Indeed, I think they missed a trick here. If history has taught us anything it’s that letting folks do things faster is actually the way to re-market an existing product. Think about your abdominals, for example. Everybody wants a six-pack, but… we’re busy. So we were introduced to 10-minute abs, which was great for a while. But then that became kind of laborious, so we had 8-minute abs. Then seven. Then six. Then five. And so on.

Facebook should have gone with a fixed 5-second video format. That’s less work for users and, therefore, by definition, better. Vine, suddenly in trouble, could have responded with 4-second videos. Facebook, 3. Vine, 2. One.

And then we’re back to static images. Which, when you think about it, is always going to be what people really want. After all, who has the time for anything else?

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