IGTV: How to use Instagram's strange new video app, and why it exists

Downloading the app is just the beginning of the confusion

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 21 June 2018 11:58 BST
IGTV trailer

Instagram has finally launched the feature you never knew you wanted: a TV network.

IGTV – which is an app but also a feature, and both a TV system and not one at all – has been described by Instagram as its "most exciting feature to date". But in truth it is a little confusing, at least to start.

In short, it is a way of watching lots of videos on Instagram, without having to bother with posts, feeds or stories. In reality it's much more than that.

What is it?

It's Instagram, except really long videos. The app is intended to be a destination for watching longer content.

The main distinguishing thing from the normal Instagram is that there's no feed, no still pictures and no stories. It has also lost the big limitation of videos on Instagram, which are limited to one minute – on IGTV, they can be up to an hour long.

It distinguishes itself from other rivals like YouTube by focusing squarely on vertical videos, which it says are "built for how you actually use your phone". In short, you won't have to turn it around to watch the posts.

It is organised in "channels", rather than profiles. But the two are basically the same: when you or anyone you follow signs up to the service, it will ask you to create a channel, and that channel will be matched with the profile you usually use on Instagram.

Many of the most famous Instagrammers in the world have set up channels already, on the prompting of the company. That includes everyone from Kim Kardashian West to the famous dog Jiffpom.

Why does this app even exist?

There are two answers to this question: both true, and which you think is most important probably depends on how cynical you are, and think Instagram is.

The first is that people enjoy videos on Instagram – despite having begun as a photo app, moving images have taken over the platform. So Instagram has launched a better and longer way to watch them, putting them in a devoted app so that people can do so more easily.

But it's also important to note that Instagram's owner Facebook has been very keen on becoming a video platform – and has launched a whole host of different initiatives, not all of them successful, in an attempt to do so. Ads placed next to videos cost more and so are more valuable to Facebook and Instagram; the more that people can be encouraged watch them, the better.

How do I get it?

There's two ways to use IGTV. The first is from Instagram, where a little button will pop up if people on your feed have posted something new.

But the far more obvious and important one is the separate app, which is where IGTV really lives. It is

Instagram said that IGTV will be "rolling out globally over the next few weeks on Android and iOS". The standalone app – named simply IGTV – seems to be available to at least some users now, though the button in the traditional Instagram app might not show up.

How do I watch videos?

Just download the app and open it up. As long as you already follow some people on Instagram, then their IGTV videos will show up and automatically start playing in full screen.

On the bottom, you can scroll through various posts on the "For You" screen, which takes information from Instagram to try and work out what you might want to watch on IGTV.

You can also click "following" to see a list of the latest posts that have been shared by people you follow, "popular" for a breakdown of all of the videos people are watching on the entirety of IGTV, or "continue watching" to finish off videos you didn't get to the end of.

That, at least for now, is it. There's little more to the IGTV app in terms of the watching experience.

How do I make them?

Much as Instagram talked about the celebrities who are joining its new service, it does want normal people to get involved too. So you can make your own IGTV programming, should you want to.

That said, the app doesn't make it immediately obvious how to actually do so. It seems clear that the feature is made primarily for celebrities and bigger channels to make, and for normal people to watch on.

To get started, open up the IGTV app and click on your profile picture, which should show on the right side next to a cog. It will prompt you to create a channel, and then take you through a number of steps and give you some advice.

Once that's done, you'll head back to your home feed. Now whenever you want to share some video, you can click your profile picture again and be taken onto your own channel – press the little plus button and you'll be able to upload some video.

It's important to note that – unlike Instagram – IGTV does not include any features for actually making the video you want to upload. Instead, you'll have to record it somewhere else, such as the built-in camera app, and then share it from your camera roll.

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