Four months after introducing live video streaming for celebrities and other high-profile users, Facebook is now rolling the feature out to everyone inside its flagship app. Starting with a small test today, Facebook users will be able to use a redesigned status menu to select "live video." Over time, the company plans to bring it to all users. As on earlier entrants Meerkat and Periscope, Facebook's streams display the number of live viewers, the names of friends who are watching, and real-time comments as they're written. Unlike the live-streaming pioneers, Facebook's videos are saved to your timeline and stay there unless you choose to delete them.
Trying to capture more real-time content
The move reflects both Facebook's total embrace of video and its eagerness to capture more of the real-time content that drives so much global conversation, most notably on Twitter. Live video is a move somewhat at odds with Facebook's algorithmic News Feed, which sorts the hundreds or thousands of posts your friends have shared based on the likelihood you will engage with them. On other live-streaming apps, you tap "go live" and a notification gets sent to all of your followers. On Facebook, a live broadcast set to "public" will generate a push notification that only goes out to an algorithmically generated list of "close friends" — likely a small number of people. (Broadcasts also contain a "subscribe" button; press it and Facebook will alert you to new broadcasts even if it doesn't think you're a "close friend.")
"The reasons people wanted it were quite different from celebrities," says Julie Zhou, product design director at Facebook. "It was really more about inviting friends and families into special moments in people's lives." People might broadcast from Facebook during a child's birthday party, she said, or after reaching the summit of a mountain.
Also included in today's update is a new way of sharing photo collages. The iPhone app is updating today to let you create collages that for the first time mix photos and videos, arraying them in grids. Until now, pictures have appeared in a scrolling list; they were redesigned to make them feel more like narratives, Zhou says.
Now when you go to share a photo using the app, you'll see your recent pictures organized based on the time and place that you took them. With a few taps, you can select the photos you want to share, arrange them into grids, give them a title and post them. For now you can only create them on iPhone; Android support is coming next year. But the collages can be viewed on any device, Facebook says.