Today, Facebook announced a bunch of new tools for Facebook Live, its growing live-video platform. This is not, in and of itself, particularly interesting: Tech companies make announcements about new products and features all the time. But Facebook isn’t just any old tech company, and when it tells the world about a cool new feature, it’s also unofficially telling you a new and soon-fundamental way in which you will experience the internet at large. That’s how much power it wields. Fun!
So, as we enter the year of Facebook sending you annoying notifications that someone or something you follow is broadcasting live, here’s what you should know.
You’re going to see a lot of live video this year.
Facebook is actively pushing live video. It’s reportedly paying media brands like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post money to create live video, and its mobile app has added a dedicated video tab for you to find all of your live streaming all in one place. At the start of last month, the company announced it would start weighing live broadcasts more heavily in users’ News Feeds, meaning you’ll see more of them whether you want to or not, right at the top of your feed when you sign in.
This is the approximately one-billionth time Facebook is forcing a new feature on users, who will be annoyed for a split second and then wonder how they lived without it.
That doesn’t mean any of the live video will be good.
Obviously, your friends will make a lot of dumb live videos. (Maybe they already are.) Worse, publishers, thirsty for attention and users, can’t ignore anything that Facebook is prioritizing in this way, even if they don’t really understand what to do with it. So you’re going to see — and be notified about! — a lot of weird and bad video while all of your favorite brands figure out how to leverage Facebook’s new thing.
Turning off live notifications is hard.
Facebook is literally sending push notifications to users whenever Pages they like go live. The practice is annoying to many, but apparently it’s working. The company is apparently working on a way to turn off all of the notifications at once, but it has yet to materialize. On mobile, swiping right on notifications will reveal a “More” menu that lets you disable per-user alerts. On desktop, just click the “X” icon next to the notification.
On the other hand, making Live video is pretty easy.
Open up the Facebook app on your phone, click the field where you’d write a status, and select “Live Video.” From there, you just need to press a button.
There are a bunch of new features.
While individual users have had the ability to broadcast for a while, Facebook is rolling out other features today. Groups and events can now livestream, so get ready to receive alerts for all of the cool parties you’re missing out on.
You can also replay comments as they occurred during the live broadcast, though why on Earth you would want to is beyond me, since live comments on small-audience videos are mundane, and on high-audience videos like stepping into a football-stadium bathroom during halftime. Still, Facebook says people comment ten times more during live videos.
Finally, there are some new filters users can overlay video with — most likely the first step to incorporating the face-swap and other features from the recently purchased virtual face-mask app MSQRD as well.
Facebook is trying to make the News Feed relevant again.
In a February meeting, according to BuzzFeed, Zuckerberg informed the company that it was putting an unusually large amount of muscle behind live video — a scaling-up that required more than 150 engineers. In his words, the format is “a new, raw way that people wanted to share on a day-to-day basis. We’re seeing this especially with young people and teens.”
At its heart, Facebook’s live push is about those young people and teens. As much as the company wants to seem like a leader, it’s following in the footsteps of other platforms, like Snapchat and Twitch, that are enormously popular with the under-25 crowd. Snapchat’s Stories are quasi-live videos that get tons of attention, and Facebook is attempting to capture that same feeling of spontaneity. Twitch is quietly expanding from video games into other livestreaming areas, with sections for drawing and creativity as well. And the Twitter-owned Periscope is … uh, still around, too. Facebook — by which we mean the News Feed, in particular — has a reputation as staid or boring. It’s still Facebook’s biggest moneymaker, but it doesn’t get as much awe-inspired press as other Facebook properties, like WhatsApp, Oculus, or even Instagram. Giving the platform Snapchat-like capabilities is an effort to inject it with a little bit of excitement. And also, I guess, to give BuzzFeed a place to further torture its employees.