Last week, Instagram surprised its users by increasing the second limit of its videos to a whopping 60 seconds , a full four times longer than it was before.
It had already extended the video viewing time for marketers , but last week was when the feature was introduced to regular users for the first time. It's a pretty big leap, and according to Instagram, it was for one reason: In fact, the time users spent watching video on the photo-and-video sharing service jumped more than 40 percent in the last six months. But while extending the video limit was something of a no-brainer, the effort to make it happen was actually quite a large one.
For starters, the Instagram team wanted to improve video quality in general, even before the increase in video length. Ramp 15 seconds up to 60 and the problem quickly escalates. This is because when Instagram first launched video -- back in -- the networks were different, and the devices that people used were different.
Also, back then, the team placed a hard cap on file sizes, which became an issue especially for Android phones. When a video appears in the feed, the Android app actually downloads the whole video file to the phone's local storage, which then passes it to Android's MediaPlayer. Aside from just a strain on bandwidth, it also presented a problem of varying quality levels. On the other hand if you have videos of somebody surfing or there's a lot of movement, those typically have a larger file size.
Video Creators on Instagram from Instagram on Vimeo. So in the move from 15 to 60 second clips, Instagram faced a few challenges. The solution, as it turns out, lies within its own parent company.
Facebook has been leading the way for video encoding for awhile now and has built up a much more robust and flexible infrastructure. Since Instagram was readying itself for a massive explosion in video growth, it only made sense to combine the two. Indeed, Instagram is now migrating all of its video encoding efforts to Facebook's own system. With this, it's able to build a streaming video cache so that your phone will never have to wait for a download before the video starts to play.
At this very moment, all videos that are longer than 15 seconds are being encoded on Facebook's infrastructure rather than on Instagram's own back-end. It's not just that either. The team also made a few changes to how it processed video. For one thing, they opted to go for a quality target instead of just a file size hard cap. They also figured how to decrease the file size so that the videos would load faster. The team also worked hard to improve playback on Android.
We have to keep in mind the lowest common denominator. From pixel screens to pixel behemoths, the team has been able to provide the same quality to different sized displays, he said.
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