Instagram celebrates 1 billion users by announcing IGTV video platform

YouTube is a great video platform -- I have no complaints, really. With that said, I also enjoy watching content on Twitch. Ultimately, competition is a good thing, as it forces companies to innovate rather than stagnate.

Today, yet another video service debuts, and it is backed by a major player in the social network space -- Instagram. Just how major is it? Today, Instagram announces it has achieved 1 billion users! To celebrate, the Facebook-owned photo site is launching a true video platform that goes beyond the short throwaway videos the service currently offers. Called "IGTV," it is aiming to be a true YouTube competitor, allowing users to upload videos up to one hour in length. There is one big twist though -- the videos are vertical only...

"Just like turning on the TV, IGTV starts playing as soon as you open the app. You don't have to search to start watching content from people you already follow on Instagram and others you might like based on your interests. You can swipe up to discover more -- switch between 'For You,' 'Following,' 'Popular' and 'Continue Watching.' You can also like, comment and send videos to friends in Direct," says Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder and CEO, Instagram.

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Systrom further explains, "Also like TV, IGTV has channels. But, in IGTV, the creators are the channels. When you follow a creator on Instagram, their IGTV channel will show up for you to watch. Anyone can be a creator -- you can upload your own IGTV videos in the app or on the web to start your own channel."

While I understand the reason IGTV videos are vertical-only (the primary focus is smartphone users), it is a bit short-sighted. People wanting to watch a one hour video on their TV, for instance, won't enjoy wasted screen real estate and black bars. Hopefully IGTV will expand to horizontal videos too once the initial gimmick passes. YouTube, for instance, now embraces both.

A dedicated IGTV mobile app will be made available for both iOS and Android -- Instagram says it will be slowly rolled out "over the next few weeks." You will be able to view the content using the Instagram app too, apparently. In addition to uploading and viewing these videos on mobile, you can do so on the web too. You will be able to easily share IGTV videos on Facebook, of course.

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