Facebook Live revamp hints at what's to come at F8

A week before its annual F8 conference, Facebook took aim at live video rivals Periscope, Snapchat and YouTube with a series of new 'Facebook Live' features that encourage you to create more live video, as well as watch and interact with video in real time.

Facebook detailed an upcoming overhaul of its "Facebook Live" video service yesterday, just four months after it first publicly released the features. Facebook Live will soon have its own dedicated tab in the middle of the Facebook mobile app that you can use to find live or archived video broadcasts from Friends or Pages you follow, search other video by topic, and view maps of live broadcasts from the 60 countries where Facebook Live will be available.

[Related Feature: Facebook, Snapchat and the future of live video]

You will be able to "go live," or create your own live streams, in Groups or Events. It's an additional layer of private communication for family, friends or coworkers and a new way to bring fans closer to the action in real time. Facebook hopes live video will encourage you to regularly share and connect with private groups and communities of common interest, according to Fiji Simo, the company's product management director.

Facebook also wants to drive engagement by incorporating more of the whimsical filters and forms of expression that helped make services such as Periscope and Snapchat so popular. The company added Facebook Live video filters and the same set of "reactions" that are available in the Facebook News Feed — love, haha, wow, sad and angry — but jazzed them up with an animated twist. Live Reactions appear and fade from users' screens in real time, and people who watch video after it concludes see comments as they originally appeared, according to Facebook.

Facebook says its live videos already receive more than 10 times as many comments as traditional video, and it expects the animated reactions to further increase Facebook Live video engagement metrics.

Will Facebook Live take center stage at F8?

Facebook launched its live video features just nine months ago as part of the Mentions app, but the service was only available to public figures and celebrities. When the company publically released Facebook Live five months later, it opted to bundle the feature into the flagship Facebook app instead of keeping it a part of Mentions or another app. Facebook has a recent history of "unbundling" popular services from its mobile app and giving them their own apps, so this bundling of Live video appears to be a reversal for the company.

[Related News Analysis: Facebook finally goes beyond the like with new reactions]

Facebook is clearly excited about live video, and it tasked a large team of engineers with development, because it's "this new really raw, personal and spontaneous way that people can share," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a live video broadcast discussing the news. "It's like having a TV camera in your pocket all the time."

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Live from Facebook HQ for the Live video launch!
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The new Live video features will roll out to iOS and Android users during the coming weeks, along with some metrics for Pages with Live video, according to Facebook. The news also comes less than a week before Facebook's annual F8 conference kicks off in San Francisco, where the company is expected to focus on video, messaging and VR. Given the time of this news, Facebook Live could very well turn out to be the star of the show at F8.

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Matt Kapko

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