Remember when Meerkat arrived on the scene and live-streaming suddenly became the thing that everyone had to be doing?
Twitter’s Periscope followed shortly after, then Facebook Live, then YouTube refined its live-streaming process. But then, after that, live-streaming sort of died out. Well, not died out – as YouTube noted earlier this week, more than 100,000 channels on its platform are now using its Super Chat live-stream tipping feature. But live-streaming, among the broader social media user cohort, ended up being something of a fad.
I was reminded of this this week when social media expert Matt Navarra shared the news that Facebook is shutting down its live-stream with friends feature, which it launched back in 2017.
As explained by Facebook:
“We will cease supporting the ‘live with’ functionality in the Facebook iOS and Android applications over the coming weeks. We’re committed to building a truly social video experience on Facebook, and we’re constantly evaluating the set of features we offer to the community. It’s important that we prioritize and focus on experiences that drive the most value for the community.”
Live with friends never seemed like a major focus for Facebook Live, but Facebook Live in general seems to have de-prioritized somewhat after that initial boom. Which, as noted, may be a trend among the live-stream function altogether, as users move onto other elements, like Stories, and increasingly, messaging.
Maybe, live-streaming as a general user option, just isn’t that interesting, and people have found that over time.
Part of the problem with streaming has actually been in creating good content. Yes, it’s cool to be able to broadcast yourself to your connections whenever you want, but actually creating quality, entertaining live-stream videos, on a consistent basis, is hard, and not everyone can do it. That’s likely why we saw live-streaming merge into group chats – first there was Blab, a four-person live-streaming platform which rose to prominence, then died out due to rising costs. The same trend then shifted to Houseparty, another multi-participant streaming service, which gained popularity as a virtual hangout space among younger users – before being purchased by Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite, back in June.
Facebook had tried to tap into the rising popularity of live-streaming for this purpose, with its own, dedicated app (Bonfire), and with the option to add friends to live-streams. But clearly, neither caught on in any significant way (Bonfire was shut down back in March).
Cost is a consideration. As noted with Blab, the company found that the price of maintaining a service that could facilitate group streaming was too high, in comparison to demand. Facebook may well have found the same – and while money might not be a crippling concern for Facebook more broadly, it’s not going to keep paying for a service that’s simply not being used. Which, again, points to popularity. While Facebook, at one time, was all-in on Facebook Live, it does seem to have taken a back seat as that initial hype has died down.
So, no more adding friends to your Facebook Live streams. Given that Facebook’s retiring the option, it would suggest that it largely won’t be missed, but it did provide another angle to Facebook Live streams, and lessened the burden of being consistently entertaining in your own right.
But then again, you can still go live with friends on Instagram, there are still ways to facilitate the same. Just not on Facebook – where, as noted, it likely won’t be missed either way.