Facebook boosts snubbed Stories Camera with Live, GIF & text sharing

Despite the tepid reception for Facebook Stories, the social network is doubling down on its full-screen Camera feature. Today Facebook added the ability to go Live, shoot two-second GIFs and share full-screen text posts on colored background from Facebook Camera, which lets you share to Facebook Stories, Direct messaging and the traditional News Feed.

The features give Facebook Camera near parity with Instagram’s Stories camera, and could make it more flexible and attractive to teens looking for ways to share visually. Combining the Camera’s augmented reality face filters with Live could make people more comfortable broadcasting since they won’t have to show their real face.

Facebook had already offered colored backgrounds for status updates through the traditional composer. It tested a GIF creator in Camera last month. And Facebook tested Live via Camera earlier this month, after allowing users to go Live from the News Feed composer since 2016. But now Facebook is officially rolling out these features to all iOS and Android users.

Facebook globally launched Camera and 24-hour ephemeral Stories in March, declaring war on Snapchat directly after fighting by proxy via Instagram since last year.

But while Snapchat clones Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status have both surpassed the original to hit 250 million daily users, Facebook hasn’t given updates on how many people use its Camera and Stories. Critics in the West, where Snapchat and Instagram are popular, have dubbed Facebook Camera “redundant.” Some ask why we need multiple Facebook-owned properties to share the same Stories. Others find the Story bubbles atop the feed obtrusive, especially when people seem to be pouring very little content into the distribution channel. Right now only four of my friends have a Story posted.

But between Facebook’s launch of the augmented reality Camera Effects Platform in April and today’s addition of new features, Facebook seems hell-bent on making its Camera popular. It could always cut and run, folding Facebook Camera and directing users to Instagram Stories. But if Mark Zuckerberg is convinced video and visual communication is the future, and is betting Facebook can lead by offering an AR development platform Snapchat lacks, the company may be willing to take its lumps and wait for the trends to push people to Camera.