Instagram now lets people add guests to live video streams

Make way for more talking heads. Instagram, competing hot on the heels of other live video broadcasting apps, is enhancing its video streaming service with a new feature that it hopes will bring out more videos both from those of its 800 million users who might be too shy to use the feature on their own, and from those who can’t resist an opportunity to be more social. Today, Instagram announced that it would let users who run live video streams add guests into their videos.

The rollout, part of the company’s latest update, follows a limited test that Instagram started in August to smaller groups of users, as part of its bigger and gradual expansion of live video and messages — a feature that first launched a little under a year ago.

The feature works by letting people who are streaming a video to add anyone who is watching the video at that moment, by clicking on the “add” button in the corner of the screen. When a person gets added, he/she joins you in a separate window below yours on the screen. For now, it looks like you can only add one person in at a time (and you remove that person to add in another).

If you are on Instagram and you have friends who are using the live video + guest feature, they will show up as two circles stacked together in the stories status bar. These videos, as with regular live videos, can be discarded after they run, or saved to live on as Stories, which can in turn then be shared to Facebook as Facebook Stories. Still, however, no integrations with Instagram’s other huge stablemate under the Facebook umbrella: WhatsApp.

The logic behind adding guests is clear for Instagram. Not only does it give users who might hesitate to use the video feature a little more confidence if they can have a friend with them, but it potentially adds more engagement to the mix. The status icon for a live broadcast gets sent out to the friend networks of both the video host and guest, potentially creating a much larger pool of would-be watchers.

It also lays the groundwork for a different kind of interaction on the video front.

With guests, you are essentially creating dialogues and ways for people to interact. That implies conversations and perhaps new kinds of videos getting created around, say, interviews or other kinds of interactions beyond the kind that already exist in comments on your posts.

Interestingly, adding guests into videos is coming at the same time that Instagram is introducing more controls for that other version of interactions: in September, Instagram introduced a way for users to decide who can comment on their posts, helping them sidestep trolls and abusive bystanders.

Adding guests into live videos is also a step away — or at least alongside — the basic ‘selfie’ format that has dominated the medium of mobile video for most of its life to date. (And if you, like me, are a little tired of that format, this might come as a welcome variation.)

While Stories and live video appeared to be created as direct responses to the likes of Snapchat and Periscope (among others), Instagram – by virtue of its massive audience — has found a lot of traction for both. It says that millions are using the features today, and as of September, video viewing was up 80 percent over the last year.