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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Facebook Is Betting Longer Videos Are Better

What’s the perfect length for video shot and shared via a mobile phone â€" 15 seconds or six?

Facebook is betting that longer is better.

The social networking giant introduced a video feature as part of its Instagram photo app on Thursday. The feature, which makes it easy to record and post video with a few touches of the screen, strongly resembles the Vine service introduced by Twitter about five months ago.

Shooting short videos is a popular activity among mobile users, with Vine growing to nearly 20 million users since its introduction. Instagram, which already has 130 million users, will probably supercharge growth of the category through its sheer size.

Size, or rather length, will be a crucial battleground between the services.

Vine allows users to record only six seconds of video. Instagram allows users to post up to 15 seconds of video, and they can choose to dlete and rerecord segments to make a more cinematic experience â€" or what one of Instagram’s founders, Kevin Systrom, called a “better collage.”

Mr. Systrom, who introduced the video feature at a news conference at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, said his team believed that 15 seconds was the “Goldilocks” length â€" not too long and not too short.

Instagram is also offering its users a palette of 13 filters to modify the videos, much as it does for still photos.

A demonstration of the new Cinema feature.

Perhaps the biggest difference from Vine is Instagram’s image stabilization feature, called Cinema. Hand-held cameras like smartphones often produce jumpy videos, and Instagram’s technology smooths that out. Mr. Systrom said it made amateur video look more professional.

“We’ve worked a ton on making it fast, simple and beautiful,” Mr. Systrom said.

When users browse a page with Instagram video, it wil! l play automatically once, then stop. (Vine video loops endlessly, to the annoyance â€" or delight â€" of many users.)

Although Instagram video is immediately available to both Apple iOS and Android users, the image stabilization feature is now only on the iOS version.

For now, neither Instagram nor Vine has ads. But as my colleague Jenna Wortham and I write in this accompanying article, that may well change as both Facebook and Twitter seek new sources of revenue. Online video advertising is growing quickly, with spending in the United States expected to top $4 billion this year, according to estimates from the research firm eMarketer.