Facebook announced in its blog today that it would roll out a new live video tool called Live. It is available immediately for US iPhone users, and will be expanded to the rest of the world and Android users over the next few weeks. It is also expanding the ‘Like’ button to a range of emojis called ‘Reactions’.
The ‘Live’ video service has had a limited testing group since December, according to Product Manager Vadim Lavrusik. Starting today, Facebook users can access the service through the existing Update Status tool, and can control the audience for the video before uploading. There will also be real-time updates from viewers – once a video is posted, the number of viewers and comments will be updated during the video’s broadcast. In the end, the video may be saved to the Timeline for future views. Facebook users will also receive Live videos from public figures and verified pages in their news feeds.
This represents the initial strike in Facebook’s determination to take down social media rival Twitter. In a conference call announcing very healthy fourth-quarter earnings for 2015, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg apparently ‘talked about expanding the business into areas that might put a squeeze on rivals, especially Twitter.” Facebook’s new Live video will allow it to compete directly with Twitter’s Periscope tool. Sandberg went on to say, “We feel pretty confident that real-time sharing is an increasingly important part of the platform and one that we’ll continue to invest in.”
Facebook also announced today that it will roll out an expansion of the ‘Like’ button in the form of five emojis called ‘Reactions’. Last October, Facebook began testing the expanded the Like button in response to what CEO Mark Zuckerberg said were ‘years of requests’ for a Dislike button. Emojis have been tested in several countries starting in Ireland and Spain over the past few months, and will now be available to all users in their final form. The expanded ‘Like’ function will now include emojis for Love, Sad, Angry, Happy and Wow. The emoji for ‘Yay’ was discarded after the testing.
The new range of reactions will be available to users worldwide over the next few weeks. While the hope is that having a range of reactions rather than a simple ‘Like’ will allow users a more interactive experience with Facebook, it will also make the product easier and faster for those on Facebook who already use emojis in their communications.