Facebook plans to open up its Periscope livestreaming competitor to more than just celebrities. In replies to requests from Verified Pages about when they’d get access to the VIP-only Facebook app Mentions that houses Facebook Live, the company wrote “In the future, Mentions will be available to verified Profiles”. When I asked if that would include Facebook Live, it told me it plans to roll Mentions out to verified Profiles soon, which includes access to Live.
Given Facebook changed its tune from just a week ago when it was cagey about when more people would get Live, things seem to be moving quickly and I’d expect Live to open up to Verified Profiles before the holidays.
On August 5th, Facebook launched Live, which lets broadcasters instantly start a live video stream on Facebook. Users can tune in to watch in real-time and submit comments that appear on the broadcaster’s screen. Facebook shows the streams in News Feed to people who Like the broadcaster’s Page, and sends instant notifications about tuning in to fans who’ve interacted with the broadcaster recently on Facebook.
At the end of the broadcast, Facebook Live streams are permanently saved as a video that people can watch, unlike Meerkat streams that disappear instantly and Periscopes that can only be replayed for 24 hours. That means Live not only drives real-time engagement, but also adds to Facebook’s exclusive video content trove that it can show in the feed to make lucrative video ads seem more natural there.
When Live launched, Facebook only offered access to a limited set of celebrities with Verified Pages, such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Serena Williams, Martha Stewart, and Michael Bublé. Some have used it to hold real-time video Q&As, others have made announcements, while a few just rant at the camera.
Normal users were not given broadcast access. That could be because the platform needs technical work to scale to that load. But my theory is that Facebook wanted to start with celebrities to teach users what’s interesting to stream, and avoid everyone shooting off low-quality “Hello world/this is my breakfast” broadcasts that could convince people livestreams aren’t fun to watch.
But soon, Facebook will grant the ability to a much wider swath of users who have verified Profiles, which are meant for public figures that either aren’t quite as famous, or just wanted to run their public presence from their existing profile rather than start a Page from scratch. This includes some more entertainers, athletes, and politicians, but also many journalists like me.
[Correction: The Rock recently posted the photo to the right, but it was taken well before the launch of Facebook Live, and the conversation with Mark Zuckerberg was about celebrities reaching fans, not Live specifically.]
Periscope might have gotten a five-month head start and just hit 10 million registered users. But Facebook is betting on its scale and the massive existing followings of public figures on its platform to leapfrog competitors.
The expansion brings Facebook Live broadcasting one step closer to universal access. It could turn the platform into a tool for spontaneous journalism, the way Periscope has started to become. And since people with verified profiles won’t have to worry about the huge businesses built up around them like true celebrities, it could spur more experimentation with what can be done with Live.
By giving access to more creators, Live could soon bring contests, DIY project walk-throughs, call-in talk shows, first-person adventures, nerdy news discussions, and more to a Facebook window near you.