Business Technology

Sunday 17 December 2017

This new Facebook feature lets you view lives of others around the globe

Madhumita Murgia

Facebook has added a new feature to its website that lets you look at live video feeds of people around the world, turning everyone into a voyeur.

Just click on the "Live Video" button on the left-hand navigation bar of your Facebook home page and an interactive map of the world opens up.

Little blue dots mark the spots where people are currently streaming video live; larger, pulsing blue dots show the most popular feeds.

Hovering over the dots gives you a preview of the video, and you can click to enlarge the screen and find the person streaming. 

When the Telegraph randomly chose to view various feeds, it saw a woman in Texas dancing suggestively into the camera, a man getting a tattoo in Cape Town and a Yorkshire lady doing her makeup.

Several feeds were just selfie videos, or people driving down drab roads. Some of the most popular feeds tended to be owned by broadcast media, rather than individuals.

Hovering over popular videos (the pulsing dots) displays lines spreading out across the globe - this shows you where viewers of this particular video are currently located.

Broadcasting what may be a private stream meant for friends to the rest of the world is a risk. 

For instance, Tonga-born Kali Kanongata accidentally live-streamed the full 45-minute birth of his son from California to hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world, although he initially thought it was just his family and friends in Tonga. The video has been watched more than 120,000 times. 

When Kanongata became suspicious the video was more public than he had thought, he said he did consider stopping the view but then chose to keep going. "There's a lot of negative stuff on Facebook and so I thought this would be positive," he said to People magazine." I figured as long as I kept it PG – this is a birth – it's something to be happy about."

How to make your video livestream private 

When you start to stream video, a grey toggle button appears as you are titling your live video before you actually go live. This button will tell you whom you are broadcasting to.

If it says "Public" (as on my app above), that means your feed will show up on the world map and anyone can tune in to watch and comment. We were also able to click through to someone's profile that showed details like their profile picture, where they lived and any other public information. 

Click to change to "Friends", "Friends except.." which allows to add exceptions and "Only Me". 

Click on the "More..." button to reveal a host of further options including a custom list of "close friends", people from your family, high school, city, workplace or any other sort of custom list you want to broadcast to.

The major update shows Facebook's commitment to live video as it looks to compete against apps like Snapchat, Meerkat and Periscope - which offers a very similar live-streaming mobile map of the world. 

Will Cathcart, Facebook's vice president of product management, told BBC’s Newsbeat that “live videos get 10 times as many comments as regular videos”.

“As people get better cameras in their phones that can take better pictures and video, we've sought more and more to make video a well-supported part of Facebook,” he said.

“We have been surprised with the positive reaction to Live so far as people have really taken this up, whether they are sharing with their friends and family, the world or their fans.”

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