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Facebook's Livestreaming Feature Is Rolling Out to Non-Celebrities

Watch out, Periscope!

Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock

Attention Periscope and Meerkat!

Facebook will begin rolling out its own livestreaming video product to users on Thursday, the same streaming feature it debuted specifically for celebrities back in August. Now, though, Facebook Live will be available to us regular folks.

The feature lets people with a smartphone broadcast whatever it is they’re doing to their Facebook friends and followers. Once the stream ends, it will live on your Facebook profile as a regular video. It will even autoplay in News Feed just like other Facebook videos do.

Of course, there are already ways to broadcast what you’re up to online, most notably apps like Meerkat and Twitter-owned Periscope. Both companies took off last March just after SXSW but seem to have slowed down considerably since then. Facebook believes its focus on connecting people with their friends and families — versus the more public nature of Periscope — is the key distinction.

“We think that’s actually going to be a huge differentiator [from] these other more public services,” Julie Zhuo, a director of product design at Facebook, told Re/code. “The unique thing that Facebook has always been [that] at its core it’s about your friends and family.”

The obvious question moving forward will be whether or not there is a market for three separate livestreaming companies. Periscope will continue to benefit from its affiliation with Twitter, but it’s also a standalone app that requires people to download. Facebook Live is built directly into the existing Facebook app, meaning that it should soon be in the hands of millions more users than Periscope just be default.

Whether or not people will actually use Facebook Live is another question entirely. Facebook has a history of building products that look and feel like competitors, but that doesn’t mean they always stick. (Take Facebook’s Snapchat competitors Poke and Slingshot, for example.) Yesterday, presidential candidate Donald Trump attempted a Q&A with followers using Facebook Live, but had to cancel it because of technical difficulties; he used Periscope instead.

The livestreaming feature isn’t the only update to Facebook. The company is rolling out a new product called “Collage” Thursday that scans your phone’s camera roll and suggests groups of related photos and videos to upload to the service. It’s similar to a Facebook photo album, but automates the process of having to search through and select photos to clump together.

Both updates get at the core of Facebook’s mission: to keep users sharing as much as possible with their friends. If you keep sharing and your friends keep sharing, you’ll probably use Facebook more and more frequently.

Facebook Live is available to a small group of iPhone users in the United States beginning today, and will roll out more broadly over time. Collage is available to nearly all iPhone users worldwide beginning Thursday.

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