It’s been a month now since Facebook rolled-out a dramatically improved design for live video — a design that borrowed liberally from Twitter-owned Periscope. Facebook’s enormous audience, combined with its willingness to pay media companies to broadcast there, immediately threatened to derail Twitter’s video ambitions. But today Periscope is announcing features that begin to address some of the product’s shortcomings: permanent broadcasts, search, and an integration with DJI drones.
Starting with an app update in about three weeks, Periscope broadcasts will no longer disappear after 24 hours by default. Instead, broadcasts will be available permanently on a broadcaster’s profile — and inside the tweets where they are often shared. Users can set broadcasts to disappear by default if they like, and can still delete broadcasts whenever they want. Until the update arrives, Periscope users can begin making their broadcasts permanent by adding "#save" to the description when they begin streaming.
Periscope originally set broadcasts to disappear after a day to make people feel more comfortable sharing, co-founder Kayvon Beykpour said in an interview. "At the time we had started Periscope, people hadn’t really embraced live video," he said. "It felt like this incredibly stressful activity — why would I put myself on stage around people?" But norms around streaming have changed rapidly, and so have the economics. For media personalities and publishers, there’s little value in investing content that disappears. "We have moved past that world where people think about live with that same amount of stress in a short amount of time," Beykpour said. "We’re frankly shocked the world evolved that quickly — but that’s great."
"We're frankly shocked the world evolved that quickly"
Making broadcasts permanent by default gives Twitter a way to accumulate lots of video, which it can repurpose — and eventually profit from — in a multitude of ways. Crucially, it puts Twitter on more even footing with Facebook, which has made permanent videos the default from the beginning. Periscope is also announcing its first integration with a consumer drone — recent DJI Phantom models can now broadcast on the service, with the user able to control the camera from their phones.
Periscope is also adding a search bar to the app for the first time, and has began organizing some broadcasters (and broadcasts) by category. By searching for hashtags, you’ll be able to find broadcasts being filmed from drones, for example, or see a feed of everyone broadcasting for the first time. You can also search in categories such as music, art, food, and travel. To add your own broadcast to one of those categories, you add it as a hashtag in the title of your broadcast. The experience is raw but useful — like a rough draft of Instagram’s Explore feature. "We’re still scratching the surface, but this is our starting place," Beykpour said.
The company also recently hired Evan Hansen, a former Wired journalist who was most recently an editor at Medium, to be its editor-in-chief. Hansen will begin building a team to continue developing editorial products inside the app, as well as building relationships with media organizations in an effort to get them to do more on Periscope.
As streaming video becomes a universal feature of social platforms, and everyone takes features from one another, it can start to feel like a cheap commodity. New features matter only to the extent that they help build large, distinctive, vibrant communities. Today’s announcements find Periscope in catch-up mode — but also show a welcome focus on community building. If the company can succeed at that, it could prove very hard to copy.