Oh, Instagram. Do you use it for showing friends where you’re holidaying, sharing how impossibly cute your dog is or, you know, photographing your dinner?

Instagram Co-Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom reveals IGTV.

Update: This post has been updated with more details about the standalone app and its availability.

And what if you’re a content creator, posting videos which until now have been very limited in their run time?

Well, now, content creators and others can do more with the social platform that lets you show your visual flair arguably better than rival networks.

TechCrunch had reported that today would be the day that new features would be launched in San Francisco. And the Wall Street Journal had previously hinted that long-form video was about to happen. Now, it has.

Here’s what’s new.

Instagram has a billion users

Widely anticipated, this announcement is a real milestone for the company. Founder Kevin Systrom told the BBC, “Our proudest accomplishment is building a thriving community of a billion, which is just wild beyond our wildest beliefs.”

Instagram updated to include the IGTV icon.

The big announcement: IGTV

That’s the name of the new service which is the longer-form video hub just launched.

“It’s mobile first. It’s simple and it’s quality. That’s IGTV,” Systrom said. Mobile first means videos will be shot in vertical format, not the more conventional landscape orientation.

To find IGTV, you will simply click on the app’s Explore tab and content will appear there as it becomes available. IGTV video from people you follow will start playing as soon as you open the app.

It seems designed to challenge rivals such as YouTube and Snapchat with its Discover channels. Systrom said that though comparisons would be made with YouTube, that the IGTV videos would be, “more engaging and perhaps more emotional”.

And IGTV has channels, just like real TV, Instagram was keen to point out.

There are no ads.

Well, not yet, anyway, but Systrom didn’t rule out the possibility of ads in the future. On the other hand, those content creators aren’t earning revenue directly from Instagram.

Just part of the Instagram app?

No, IGTV will also be available as a standalone app which will appear in the weeks to come on iOS and Android. (Update: it has now gone live on iOS).  However, longform content will become available to Instagram users as soon as they’ve updated the app (the latest version is 50.0 or above, which went live on the Apple App Store a little after 10AM Pacific, June 20). When you have the right version, you’ll see a new icon for IGTV, rolling out globally in the next few weeks. Tap that icon to watch these new videos.

Can’t get enough jiffpom? Now you can see much longer videos…

Videos

Full-screen, portrait orientation videos. Until now there’s been a 60-second limit on these videos. Now, that limit has been raised to 60 minutes, which changes everything. If you’re a content creator, this new limit gives great flexibility. Still, Instagram is encouraging an optimum length of 10 minutes, not dissimilar to YouTube vlogs. There’s a minimum 15-second video length. Instagram isn’t focusing on the best quality, rather it’s hoping that a new generation of creators who are internet savvy will set a new, modern tone. These web celebs will create the norms.

Kevin Systrom said, “Video deserves a better home on mobile”. And the company stressed again that this means vertical video.

Content creators welcome in longer form video.

Just Content Creators?

It had been predicted that these longer video capabilities would only be made available to content creators but, no, any user can upload videos. There is an emphasis on Instagram creators, too, like LaurDIY and King Bach posting comic moments. But as Instagram has it, “Anyone can be a creator — you can upload your own IGTV videos in the app or on the web to start your own channel.”

Instagram and new IGTV icons side by side.

Which means?

Well, probably it means a tendency toward fast-moving, urban grittiness and a rougher, more realistic edge rather than high-budget, Hollywood polish. And it also means that videos will be curated into channels, which again sounds similar to Snapchat’s Discover feature.

Upload widely

Right now, you can only upload content from a mobile device but now you will be able to post from a desktop computer, too.

Content

One of the functions of IGTV is to attract web celebrities and Instagram will let those creators add links (swipe up on the screen to visit the links) in order to drive traffic. Those who post daily vlogs could be a real attraction for Instagram users.

So what does it all mean?

Full-length videos means users staying in the app longer, which surely means money from advertising. And the real key for users is versatility. Greater freedom for video-making can only be a good thing, especially if thought and effort goes into making strong, effective videos.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re politely watching yet another friend’s endless big-night-out video.

But the timing is also interesting: at a moment when screen addiction is front-of-mind, and when Google and Apple are introducing features to encourage less time on your smartphone, the advent of IGTV seems to go the other way, wanting us to be glued to our screens more rather than less.

And longer videos use more data, which could eat into monthly allowances – and, remember, this is vertical video so it’s absolutely been designed to view on your phone.

This story is still developing, so please check back for updates.

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