Twitter released an update today that will let you broadcast live video from within its app for iOS and Android. The feature is “powered by” Periscope, Twitter’s live video app, but can be used regardless of whether you have installed Periscope or created an account. The move represents an attempt to blunt Facebook’s chief advantage over Twitter in live video: everyone who has Facebook on their phone can go live without downloading a separate app.
To start a broadcast inside Twitter, tap the button to compose a new tweet and then tap “live.” From there you can frame your shot and start your video. During the broadcast, viewers who see your broadcast on their timelines can tap in, comment, and send hearts. If you’ve used Periscope, it will all feel very familiar — and if you haven’t, it’s fairly intuitive. (Twitter had previously added a Periscope button to the app, but tapping it just redirected you to Periscope or to an app store to download it.)
Adding live video to Twitter raises questions about the future of Periscope, which Twitter acquired last year for an undisclosed sum, as a standalone app. Along with Meerkat, Periscope helped to popularize live mobile video as a broadcasting tool. But what first appeared to be a phenomenon looks more and more like a fad: Meerkat pivoted away from the space earlier this year after finding that average people never returned after their first few broadcasts.
Facebook rolled out live video to all users in January, and it has promoted it relentlessly — inside its apps and through an elaborate marketing campaign — ever since. But the company’s year-end list of most-watched live videos found a steep drop-off between No. 1 (“Chewbacca Mom” Candace Payne, a legitimate viral phenomenon) and No. 10, which had 88 percent fewer views.
Periscope says the app will continue to be developed. “We are fully invested in the Periscope app,” said Sara Haider, senior engineering manager at Periscope. She noted that not all Periscope users regularly use Twitter.
When it was acquired, Periscope sought to firmly maintain its independence from Twitter in the hopes that it could become a large, standalone product with a distinct audience and product roadmap. Its model was Instagram, which continued to grow rapidly after being acquired by Facebook. But once Facebook made live video a core feature of the service, the prospects of a standalone social network organized around live broadcasts diminished greatly. That live video typically only grabs our attention during tragedies has only made Periscope’s road more difficult.
Haider said Periscope needs to encourage users to broadcast more regularly. “We need to let people know that their voices matter,” she said. “One of the barriers folks still [mention] is, ‘I’m not doing something interesting enough,’ or ‘no one wants to hear my opinion.’” Especially in this climate today, it’s more important than ever to share what you’re feeling and thinking so we can understand each other better. When we see more people doing that, and we bring live video to more of Twitter’s surfaces, that will encourage others to take part in the conversation.”
In the short term, integrating Periscope fully into Twitter is a win for both. Periscope’s usage is likely to see a significant spike, and Twitter can begin to reclaim some of the ground it lost to Facebook once Mark Zuckerberg decreed that live video was the next big thing. Twitter remains a more natural home for live video than Facebook is — your network there is populated by people you are genuinely interested in, as opposed to people who were once seated next to you at a wedding. A live video shared by someone you follow is more likely to interest you than one shared by a distant acquaintance.
For all their faults, live broadcasts aren’t going away. But for almost everyone, creating one is at most an every-once-in-a-while type of thing. And if that’s the case, it makes more sense slipped inside an app you’re already using than one you have to download for that purpose alone. Periscope says advanced features will continue to come to its app first. But the future of live video on Twitter is one where it’s integrated tightly with the core product — and in hindsight, it probably should have been from the start.