Facebook launched a major update of its iOS and Android apps Wednesday that shows just how serious the company is about video, and live video streaming in particular: Facebook’s mobile apps now feature a dedicated video tab, and live streaming is being integrated with Facebook groups and events. In addition, it added a bunch of other new features to Facebook Live that aim to keep users engaged and further boost viewing.
Altogether, Facebook added eight new live video features to its mobile apps, but the most impactful addition may be a new destination for video content. Facebook is replacing the Messenger app icon in its iOS and Android app with a new button that leads to a dedicated video section within the app.
At launch, this section is being used to highlight popular live streams from around the world, as well as live video from a user’s friends, pages and groups. Users can also start their own live streams from this video tab, as well as search for live and non-live video content. Facebook is clearly emphasizing live content at launch, but it’s not hard to imagine that this tab will sooner or later be used to highlight and curate other video content as well.
Facebook is also more closely aligning live streaming with some of its other major features: Users can now launch live streams for groups, allowing them to reach audiences around certain topics, family members or co-workers.
Live is also being added to Facebook events, making it possible to live stream physical events to users all over the world who weren’t able to attend. Events can also be used to schedule live broadcasts, something that should come in handy for bands or celebrities trying to talk to their fans.
Another feature launched by Facebook Wednesday may feel somewhat familiar to anyone who has ever used Periscope, Twitter’s competing social live streaming service. Facebook Live users can now give broadcasters direct feedback with the press of a button. Think hearts on Periscope — except in the Facebook version, users can choose between likes, hearts and the four other emoji that are now available in addition to the like button for regular Facebook posts.
In addition, comments are now being saved synchronous with live video, so you’ll get to see comments exactly at the moment they were left during a broadcast even if you watch the video at a later time.
Facebook also added a map to its website to surface live streams for desktop users. And the company gave broadcasters the ability to stylize their videos with filters, and has plans to add doodling and other effects in the near future.
Again, many of these new features are not terribly innovative. Periscope has long been using maps to give its users a way to discover new broadcasts, and other streaming services have experimented with filters in the past. Google even tried to closely tie Hangouts live video to Google+circles and events.
The difference for Facebook is its sheer size. In December 2015, 934 million people used Facebook from their mobile phone every single day. Giving all of these mobile users easy access to live streams — be it from celebrities or their friends and family — will undoubtedly give live video viewing a huge boost.