Instagram Wanted To Be “Instagram For Video” Before It Was Cool

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Calling Facebook a copycat isn’t particularly creative; not only did Myspace, Friendster and Makeoutclub have the whole social network thing down first, but Questions, Places, Poke, Messenger, Stickers and so on were all ideas stolen inspired by other startups.

And there are so many more, countless. But while Zuckerberg is indeed the greatest artist, in the case of Instagram video, he didn’t steal.

Though funny, posts like “Facebook Announces That It’s Out Of Ideas” are incredibly myopic. The history of innovation is filled with such cribbing: See Steve Jobs and Xerox PARC, Microsoft and, hell, the steam engine. Since when did having the original idea count for much in technology’s evolution? If you recall, Instagram itself was Hipstamatic with carefully souped-up social features.

But on a basic level, calling Instagram’s foray into video “someone else’s idea” is absurd, mainly because Instagram wanted to be “Instagram for video” 14 months before Vine launched on Twitter, and at least four months before the Viddys and Socialcams of the world raised their series A funding. It wanted to be the Instagram for everything.

“We really want to go after something bigger than filtered photos,” Instagram founder Kevin Systrom told me as far back as November 2011, demonstrating that he had the video element of the Instagram product in his crosshairs. He went on the record about this, stating at TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing that Instagram Video was (somewhere) on the horizon. Systrom worried about “introducing a new medium too late” as pop-up competitors tried to make the video element of their product a key differentiator.

“Video makes sense to do,” he emphasized. “Our job and our vision is to allow you to tell the story of your life, and whatever tools that may be for video, we’ll end up making them. I’m not sure if that includes filters for video or not, but we’ll definitely consider it.”

If we really want to get nitpicky, Seesmic and 12SecondsTV came up with the brilliant idea of short video sharing before Instagram even existed. As much of the success in the consumer social space is having the right product at the right time, you can’t get all hipster about it. Often, getting all the details (like Cinema) and zeitgeist right matters much more than being first.

If social startups have seen far, it’s because they’ve stood on the shoulders of Makeoutclub.

Disclosure: I own Facebook shares, but think plenty of the things the company does are #lame. Not this, though.