On Thursday, Facebook announced that it will let anyone with an iPhone live stream video on Facebook–the feature will start out in the U.S., and roll out to people in other countries in the following weeks. This comes a month after the social network said it was testing such a feature, and shows the social network is taking the growing popularity of live-streaming very seriously–something that will surely alarm currently popular apps in the space, like Meerkat and Twitter-owned Periscope.
The way you use the feature is pretty simple, and will be familiar to those who already live-stream videos. After you tap to update your status in the Facebook app, you touch a little icon at the bottom of the window that lets you write a description of your video and decide who you want to be able to see it. Then, you hit “Go Live” and it starts recording; you’ll be notified about who’s watching it (in my quick test, nobody!) and people can add comments while you’re streaming. The video is then saved to your timeline.
Facebook’s decision to enable live streaming for iPhone users (and, presumably, eventually those on Android as well) makes a ton of sense. We’re watching more video than ever on the Internet: a report last year from Cisco predicted videos will make up 80 percent of consumer Internet traffic by 2019, compared with 64 percent in 2014. And plenty of this video-watching is happening on our smartphones, as data gathered by market researcher eMarketer indicates adults in the U.S. watched 26 minutes per day, on average, on their smartphones last year (this is expected to tick up to 29 minutes this year).
And people watch lots of videos on Facebook, in particular: Facebook said during its quarterly earnings call on Wednesday that its users watch 100 million hours of video each day, and that 500 million people watch video daily on the social network.
Additionally, while live-streaming video is still new (or totally unknown) for a lot of smartphone users, the rise of apps like Periscope and Meerkat have gotten plenty of people used to how it works. Now, Facebook aims to take advantage of its huge mobile reach (934 million people who used it daily in December) to get even more people to try it out and, hopefully, end up spending even more time on the social network.