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Facebook bets big on Live with new mobile video discovery tab

TechCrunch TechCrunch 6/04/2016 Josh Constine

Today Facebook launches its full assault on YouTube with a dedicated hub for watching Live and recorded videos in its mobile app. A Video tab is taking over Messenger’s prime, center spot in the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, turning Facebook into a destination for discovering videos catergorized by topic beyond stumbling across them in the feed.

The Video hub heavily features Facebook’s Live broadcasts, and will roll out on iOS and Android in the coming weeks alongside a slew of Live upgrades including:

  • Live videos in Groups like your family or people with a specific interest
  • Live videos Events so you can schedule a Q&A or show off a party to invitees who couldn’t come
  • Comment Replays that simulate how feedback popped up during Live viewing
  • Topic tagging to place your Live video in the right discovery category in the video hub
  • Facebook’s six Reaction emojis that fly across the screen visible to viewers and broadcasters like Periscope’s hearts
  • Five color filters that can be changed on the fly to improve lighting without equipment
  • Viral invites so viewers can notify friends to join the audience
  • A Live Map of current broadcasts around the world (Currently on the web only)
  • Snapchat-style doodling so broadcasters can draw atop their Live videos (announced but not launching yet)

The upgrades leapfrog Facebook Live’s competitor Periscope, which is owned by Twitter. They make Live videos simpler to create and keep interesting, more fun to watch in the moment or later, and easier to discover while they’re still Live, which Facebook says stimulates 10X more comments. Live isn’t a foreign product bolted on, but one that’s “leveraging a lot of core fundamentals” of the social network, says Facebook’s Product Management Director for video Fidji Simo.

But the most important change is that Facebook was willing to relegate the oft-used shortcut to Messenger to the hard-to-reach top left corner of the screen to highlight the Video hub instead. It proves that Facebook sees video as the future of communication, time spent on its app, and how it will make money.

No Lights, Your Camera, Action

Facebook began testing Live video with public figures last summer and rolled it out to everyone in December. Now everyone from average users to celebrities to news outlets have used it to reveal what’s going on around them. Viewers can leave comments that broadcasters can see and respond to. And unlike Periscope, Facebook Live videos can be permanently saved for replaying instead of disappearing after 24 hours.

But since Periscope launched first in April 2015 and has a more distinctive name, it’s what’s become synonomous with real-time mobile video broadcasting. Periscope hit 200 million broadcasts last month, with 100 million since January. Facebook is desperately fighting to be wear the best broadcasts and the most viewers watch.

That’s why it’s came out and announced it was giving a big News Feed visibility boost to Live videos. It wants to incentivize broadcasters to jump aboard by showering them with crowds of viewers. Simo tells me “There is definitely a first mover advantage.” Eventually, as more broadcasters adopt the platform, that visibility will be spread out amongst the competition, similar to the decreasing reach of Page posts. “That’s Why were encouraging public figures and media companies to get in early and figure out what works” Simo explains.

If the new Video hub can bring even more viewers to both Live and recorded videos, creators will follow the audience, opt for Facebook over YouTube, Periscope, and Snapchat, allowing Facebook to conquer another part of the social web.

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