Why "Instagram For Video" Apps Will Go Big

The latest trend in smartphone apps is social video. That's because ever since Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 Billion, attention has focused on video sharing apps and whether one of them will win the next Zuckerberg lottery. The two leading contenders are Socialcam and Viddy. ReadWriteWeb's Alicia Eler profiled those two apps, along with a third called Klip, in a post yesterday.

In the interests of research, I signed up to and played with both Socialcam and Viddy. I uploaded my own amateur video, via my iPhone. I then applied the requisite filters, added some music and - Boom! - I became part of the social video craze. I also had a nosey around the communities of each service, to see if either one can indeed claim to be The Next Instagram. Here's what I discovered...

To create and upload a video is an easy process with both Socialcam and Viddy. You capture a video on your smartphone (or use one from your library) and upload it. And yes, it did remind me of the ease of use in taking and uploading photos in Instagram. Note that Socialcam has both an iPhone and Android app, whereas Viddy is iOS only at this point.

The video is only half of the equation. The other half is socializing it. I gave permission for both Socialcam and Viddy to upload my home video to my Facebook Timeline. I could've shared it elsewhere too, such as to Twitter, YouTube or Tumblr.

Each service allows you to apply special effects to your video. Both have a selection of Instagram-like filters, such as "Vintage" and "1970's". There are some differences in features between the apps. The main one is that Viddy has a 15-second time limit, whereas Socialcam videos have no time limit. Other differences are minor. For example on Socialcam, I couldn't apply a filter to a video I'd already shot prior to opening the app; but with Viddy I could. Overall though, the two apps have far more in common than not.

Both services are polished and nicely designed apps. But forget the filters and cheesy music, the real value will be in how many users each can get - and how active those users become. It's too early to tell which has the upper hand on that front. Both are heading towards the user numbers that Instagram had when it sold (about 35 million). Viddy reportedly has 16 million users at this time, while Socialcam claims 20 million. Viddy may be a bit behind, but it can brag about having Mark Zuckerberg as a user. The Facebook CEO has uploaded one video so far to Viddy, starring his puppy dog. Of course, Instagram could implement video functionality too and save Facebook from having to acquire Viddy or Socialcam. That is certainly a risk for the two startups.

The Verdict

Overall, I'm bullish on social video as The New Thing - regardless of who 'wins'. I can easily see how a 15-second video of a holiday in Venice (as I found on Socialcam) or a family ice-biking in China (as I discovered on Viddy) can become a great social component in Facebook, Twitter or any other mainstream social media service.

High quality video cameras are now as much a part of the modern smartphone as cameras are. While amateur video isn't yet as commonplace as amateur photos (YouTube videos of babies and skateboarding stunts notwithstanding), over time I'm betting it will become more widely used. For example, I have a couple of cousins who are touring the world right now and uploading Instagram photos from France, Switzerland and other exotic places. Why not make myself and the rest of my family even more jealous by uploading short, 15-second videos of their visits to Venice and other holiday destinations? That seems like a compelling use case for the likes of Socialcam and Viddy.

No wonder Zuckerberg is sniffing around!