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Thursday
Jun212018

What you need to know about Instagram's new video platform

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Instagram, which just hit 1 billion users, announced a new video format is coming to the platform, and its creators are calling it the "most exciting feature to date."

Vertical videos up to 60 minutes long will now appear in a new tab in Instagram and in a stand-alone video app, IGTV, to be released later this week.

The social media company unveiled the news during an "Instagrammable" live show in San Francisco on Wednesday that showcased the importance of video. Video has been key for social media platforms to get users to spend more time engaged with their apps.

Amid the big rollout, the company's founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, exclusively told ABC News that Instagram plans to roll out a feature in the future that helps users monitor the time they are spending on the app. The feature will include notifications and logging capabilities that would help users know when to put down their device and engage with the real world.

All about IGTV

IGTV is a separate tab within Instagram where users can post vertical, full-screen videos that are as long as 60 minutes. Previously, Instagram limited users to 60-second videos. In a new move, users can also embed links in videos -- key for influencers who use Instagram as a marketing tool.

The move is clearly a competitive shot at YouTube, and Systrom explained that the longer-format videos, combined with Instagram's billion-user reach, give creators more options within Instagram.

"We want to let creators reach their audience wherever they may be. Because of the scale of social media, they can find their audience and find their niche, and that’s what’s special about IGTV," Systrom told ABC News.

While there are some clear differences from YouTube, the most obvious one is format. Instagram is all about mobile users, who hold their phones vertically. Instagram videos will be vertically oriented and full-screen. "We give people a mobile-native, mobile-first format -- they can’t do that anywhere else today," Systrom said.

With more than 25 million followers, Lele Pons (@lelepons) who has been called the "master" of the 60-second video, said she plans to use the longer-format video feature to start a cooking show.

When asked if that’s because she loves to cook, she deadpanned, "I’m not a cook."

All the better to create beautiful, Instagram-worthy kitchen disasters that are relatable for her 25 million followers.

Instagram plans to add time management tools

The standalone app, IGTV, could be critical for video discovery. With people watching lots of videos on their phones, the market opportunity is huge. Instagram wants to compete with not only YouTube, but also Netflix, Hulu and HBO GO.

But that engagement level for teens and tweens can make video a real problem for parents.

Systrom told ABC News that Instagram plans to add features in the future that will notify users when they may be spending too much time on their phone.

"One thing we're going to do is give time management tools for parents and kids, and perhaps even send little alerts to say, 'Hey, I've spent this many minutes, maybe it’s time to put this down and have a conversation with the family,'" Systrom said.

Instagram's terms of service mandate that users are at least 13 years old, but many under that age use the app.

In addition to trying to limit screen time, parents are concerned about user-generated content -- something that has plagued YouTube for years. Systrom said the company works hard with artificial intelligence and paid monitors to flag inappropriate video.

"We’ve got a giant, thriving community that looks out for stuff that may be against our terms and flags it," Systrom said.

Users wanting access to the new IGTV feature in Instagram should go to the app store on their mobile device and upgrade Instagram to version 5.0 or later. Once the new version of the app is installed, you should see a TV icon in the upper right-hand corner of the app, which links to the IGTV feed.

Longer-form videos from accounts you follow will not appear in your regular Instagram feed, so you will have to click into this tab to find them.

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