Facebook can’t stop copying Snapchat, it seems. Remember how Instagram shamelessly injected Snapchat Stories into its service last month? Well now Messenger is getting a very Snapchat-like new feature: instant video.
Messenger already includes video calling, but, acknowledging that this is often saved for “special occasions,” Facebook has added a new broadcast option that sits above a text conversation inside the messaging app.
Here’s how it works: First make sure that both you and your friend have the latest version of Messenger for either iOS or Android. Then, while both of you are viewing an open Messenger conversation, tap on the video icon in the top right corner to start sharing real-time video. Audio is off by default because sometimes you just need to see something, not hear it — but sound can easily be turned on if you choose. Your video will float over the active text conversation that you can continue while viewing the video. Your friend can watch your video stream and share a video back if they decide.
This is the latest in a busy pipeline of new features unleashed by Facebook this summer.
Aside from the aforementioned changes to Instagram, the social media giant launched a new video-centric app for teens, took a step towards opening WhatsApp for businesses and sharing user data with Facebook, while it doubled down on its live streaming service with support for multi-person broadcasts, continuous live video, advertising, and selfie-filters powered by its acquisition of MSQRD.
Originality doesn’t necessary breed success, and, with over 1.5 billion active users on Facebook and with WhatsApp and Messenger both in the one billion MAU camp, Facebook has a huge, guaranteed audience for the new features and products that it releases. You can get all high and mighty about stealing ideas — and Facebook is clearly doing that — but if they resonate with users and get engagement then that is all that counts.
That’s not guaranteed of course, and the integration of many features that started out on Snapchat is the clearest compliment Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — who was ridiculed at the time for trying to buy Snapchat for $3 billion in 2013 — can make. It also shows that Facebook is legitimately worried about Snapchat as a threat because it is shaping how people, and particularly young people, communicate.