Facebook, Meet Live Video

Ustream wants to be Twitter for video. It’s starting on Facebook.

Facebook, Meet Live Video

“Why should broadcasting be different then tweeting?” says David Thompson, Ustream’s senior vice president of marketing. “The only thing I care about on Twitter is what’s happening now.”


The startup, which hosts live video of everything from Associated Press reporting to a Monterrey Bay Aquarium tank on its website, wants to be more like and Twitter. But it’s beginning this mission of making real-time video as prevalent as real-time information on Facebook.

Ustream is launching an app that powers live video in Facebook Timeline. Called BFF, it puts your live broadcast next to photo and video updates in your friends’ Newsfeeds and on your profile page (all with an Instagram-like lens, if you’re feeling creative). They can watch it without leaving the social network, and there’s an option to save the video in the same place in case they missed the live broadcast.

BFF includes options for sharing with friends, everyone or nobody, but its focus is on larger audiences. That’s what makes it different from videoconferencing options powered by Skype or Google Hangouts. Instead of an audience that can talk back, you can see Facebook comments and Likes while you’re recording.

It’s hard to argue with anyone who has heard of Twitter that real-time information doesn’t have a different appeal than recorded information, but previous attempts at live video on Facebook haven’t taken off (see: Color).

A live broadcasting app called Bambuser, for instance, has powered live video on Facebook since 2009. The much-hyped Color app allows users to post live video broadcasts they make on their mobile phones to Facebook after the fact, though it does so in a different way than Ustream. While Color allows up to one minute of live video via mobile phones that is then posted to Facebook–more of a snippet than a show–Ustream will support unlimited live broadcasting on Facebook. Ustream will also include audio, a feat that Color has only accomplished for its Verizon users.


Whether or not it takes over our Newsfeeds, what Ustream and others have proposed has exciting implications. Just imagine: Instead of willingly navigating to the puppy livestream, it will find you–through a trendy sepia lens, no less! Live video apps have already been used to broadcast video from major news events, but think of the possibilities of finding live video anywhere in the world as easily as you can find tweets.

At the same time, however, the prospect has its horrifying side.

Instead of seeing the odd photo from your annoying high-school chemistry partner cross your Facebook Newsfeed, how would you like the option to watch her 24-hour reality TV show?

[Image: Flickr user Fibonacci Blue]

About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.