A team of Facebook engineers in London are working on a standalone camera app with a big live-streaming component, according to a report today in The Wall Street Journal. The app would open straight into a camera, as Snapchat does, to foster immediate capturing and posting of photos and videos, as well as letting users stream via Facebook Live. The app is just a prototype and the experimental effort may never see a finished public release, the report adds.
Still, that Facebook is experimenting with app offshoots once again illustrates its serious investment in mobile video, which the company sees as the future of its social network. With billions of smartphones in the world and near-ubiquitous high-speed data connections, Facebook sees a huge opportunity to get its 1.6 billion users sharing more than ever before. A camera app may help the company do that, and better compete with Snapchat at the same time.
Facebook wants its 1.6 billion users to share more than ever before
It could also fail. Facebook has for years tried to make standalone apps, mainly through its Creative Labs division. But none have caught on save Messenger, which the company forced onto mobile users by stripping out the chat functionality from its main mobile app. Slingshot, Rooms, and Riff were all killed last December when Facebook shut down Creative Labs, while its alternative news reader Paper continues floundering under the heaps of unused mobile apps.
A camera app may be more successful if it has tight integration of Facebook Live, which is experiencing explosive growth as mobile live-streaming begins to take off. For Facebook though, it could be repeat of history. The company launched Facebook Camera, a standalone photo app, in 2012 prior to its acquisition of Instagram. It shut it down two years later.