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Facebook invites its users to livestream—but only if they’re famous
It wasn’t celebs that made livestreaming popular in the first place.
Sure, you can broadcast the minutiae of your often mundane life to Facebook, but until now, you couldn’t livestream it.
On Wednesday, the company launched Live, a feature exclusive to public figures who use its Mentions app, intended for celebrities and public figures.
Live lets celebs livestream videos directly to Facebook. They can see comments and likes in real-time and respond to people as they are filming. If this app sounds familiar, it’s because it’s identical to Meerkat and Twitter-owned Periscope, two livestreaming apps that exploded in popularity earlier this year.
With Live, Facebook is continuing its long, storied history of cloning other successful apps. Much the same way Paper mirrored Flipboard, and Slingshot and Poke ripped off Snapchat, Facebook’s newest celebrity feature isn’t new at all. It hardly even innovates on ideas that already exist.
Still, it’s unlikely Facebook just came up with this idea and executed in the time following Periscope’s and Meerkat’s massive rise to popularity. According to TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, Facebook was working on this before those apps took off this spring.
But it’s hard to look at Facebook’s most recent product and not smirk at the fact that the company is replicating apps that trended months ago. That sense coupled with the fact that Live is not even available to your average consumer makes it nearly pointless.
Meerkat and Periscope didn’t become massively popular through celebrity endorsements. It was the tech community that initially sparked their rise into relevance. The technology took off for mainstream audiences during pirated events like the pay-per-view fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather and the Game of Thrones television premiere.
And let’s not forget the first meme that truly catapulted Periscope to fame: “What’s in the fridge?”
While celebrities and politicians are now jumping on the livestreaming train, like Meerkat chef Al Roker launching a consultancy to connect brands with popular livestreaming stars, these apps owe their popularity to the community.
Journalists used Periscope in Baltimore earlier this year after protesters took to the streets to speak out against police violence and the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Stand-up comedy and improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade began using Periscope to provide free comedy shows and advice. Major sports leagues were so concerned with the technology that the NHL banned livestreaming apps from games, and the NFL made rules prohibiting players from using Periscope and Meerkat.
Facebook’s decision to launch celebrity-first makes it appear that the company doesn’t quite understand the power of livestreaming and why people care about it in the first place. Sure, there is a market for face time with stars, but more importantly, these apps enable people to experience events in the world from average people with a smartphone. It’s likely that because public figures have public audiences that differ from most people’s private friend groups Facebook thought celebs would appreciate it more. But I’m not sure that’s the case.
Facebook didn’t say when this feature might be available for everyone, but told TechCrunch “We think this would be an awesome experience for both public figures and also users.”
It would be a great experience for average users—people who are already using Periscope, Meerkat, Vine, and Snapchat to document things happening in the world around them. If Facebook really wants to become a platform for livestreaming, it needs to provide it to more than just celebrities.
H/T TechCrunch | Illustration by Max Fleishman
Selena Larson is a technology reporter based in San Francisco who writes about the intersection of technology and culture. Her work explores new technologies and the way they impact industries, human behavior, and security and privacy. Since leaving the Daily Dot, she's reported for CNN Money and done technical writing for cybersecurity firm Dragos.