When it comes to having 1 billion monthly active users. Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) is the only social media platform that can say "been there, done that." With 1.32 billion "MAUs," Facebook is head and shoulders above the rest. Twitter (NYSE: TWTR ) recently announced 271 million MAUs, but that remains a far cry from its rival's world.
In fact, two, possibly three, Facebook properties have already surpassed the tweet master as measured by active users. Along with the mother ship, there's its recently acquired WhatsApp mobile messenger service that now boasts over 600 million active users, collecting 100 million in the past four months alone. At last count, Facebook Messenger had 200 million MAUs, which is sure to skyrocket with the recently required downloading of the app for iOS and Android mobile users.
And then there's Instagram, Facebook's popular photo-sharing site. Instagram execs have big plans for reaching, then surpassing, 1 billion users, up from its current 200 million. A recently released technology may provide the necessary kick-start.
What's a Hyperlapse?
With the prevalence of smartphones and their ever-improving photo and video capabilities, most everyone can count themselves among the amateur videographer ranks. A quick tour of Instagram is a testament to that. But for many smartphone users, particularly when shooting video on the go, it's nearly impossible to maintain a steady hand to avoid the annoying blurring and jumping around that happens when using a nonstationary video tool. The answer? The new Hyperlapse app.
Though it sounds like something from a Star Wars movie, Hyperlapse actually uses what Instagram calls a "video stabilization algorithm," which gives the most amateur of amateur videographers the ability to capture the world around them, while on the go, with stunning results. No more shaking or blurring, just nearly perfect videos, every time. The algorithm, nicknamed Cinema, works something like the process used in Hollywood for making movies.
But instead of strapping on a bulky camera, Hyperlapse uses your smartphone's internal gyroscope, time lapse photography, and multiple "camera orientations," which are then fed into a video filtration pipeline. With all that techno-stuff going on under a smartphone's hood, Hyperlapse is able to continuously reassemble videos, frame by frame, and properly position them to counteract hand-shaking.
Simply save the Hyperlapsed video, upload it to Instagram (or Facebook), then sit back and enjoy your shake-free videos. You can see an example of Hyperlapse at work here.
Videographers have been able to accomplish much the same thing as Hyperlapse for some time, but only with camera mounts and high-tech video editing software. Now? Hyperlapse and your smartphone are all that's needed. You think Instagram's 200 million MAUs are impressive? Just wait until Hyperlapse goes mainstream; Instagram use could really get a shot in the arm.
What about revenue?
When Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion a couple years ago, the acquisition was much as it is today: a free all-things-video and photo-sharing site. Monetization? That's a bridge still to be crossed, much as Twitter has done the past couple of years. Of course, revenue is great, but continuing to grow its user base is the primary objective for both Instagram and Twitter.
Don't expect revenue from Instagram this year, Hyperlapse or no Hyperlapse, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a sentiment echoed by COO Sheryl Sandberg. Perhaps the delay in monetizing Instagram has something to do with boosting its active user totals, though Sandberg has been quoted as saying the wait is simply because "We really want to grow it slowly and deliberately."
Final Foolish thoughts
With new tools like shake-free videography, Instagram could see its user numbers pop. While it might not match WhatsApp's 100 million new active users in four months, you can be sure cutting-edge tools like Hyperlapse will certainly help. Already, Facebook and its other platforms hold three of the top four free downloadable apps on Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) (NASDAQ: GOOG ) Play, with Instagram sitting at No. 4.
Facebook and its properties have a couple billion active users worldwide. Naturally, many Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger users are also active on Facebook itself, and vice versa. Even so, those are some powerful numbers. And if its execs have their way, which they will if they keep pushing the envelope with solutions such as Hyperlapse, Instagram may join Facebook -- and likely WhatsApp in the near future -- in the billion-user club.
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