Last August, Facebook opened up a new live streaming feature—think Periscope, but in your News Feed—to a select group of VIP accounts. Today, the velvet rope has been lifted. You no longer need to be famous to broadcast your life to all your friends and casual acquaintances. You just need an iPhone.
The feature, which should already be in effect for US iPhone owners, with worldwide expansion coming over the coming weeks, should be familiar to anyone who’s watched a livestream before, be it on Periscope, Meerkat, or from a celebrity’s Facebook account. A new icon now appears under your status update, showing an upper body with a double halo over the head, which apparently translates to “Live Video.” Write a short description of what your audience is going to see, and start filming. You can see the names of friends who are watching, and they can comment on just how deftly you’re scrambling those eggs.
These videos aren’t ephemeral, either. Once you’re done, they’ll be saved to your timeline, where you can either delete them or keep them for posterity.
Opening up access to all iPhone users (don’t worry, Android support is coming at some point) makes sense for Facebook on several fronts. It helps keep livestreaming upstarts like Periscope and Meerkat at bay, while also increasing engagement time on Facebook itself, as people stick around to record and watch little doses of daily life. It also underscores just how important video has become to Facebook; the company said yesterday that its customers already watch 100 million hours of video every single day. If all goes according to plan, the next 100 million will come from videos they create themselves.