Internet video is now being consumed and diffused in different ways; immediacy and social interaction are becoming the new drivers.

Online video: could Facebook undermine YouTube with its new options?

Recently the Meerkat and Periscope smartphone apps have demonstrated the power of live streaming. San Francisco-based Meerkat focuses on directly linking with Twitter accounts. A user opens the app to film an event and a tweet is automatically generated from his/her personal account encouraging followers to catch the event live. Periscope, also from San Francisco, is another live video streaming app using Twitter – in fact the company was acquired by Twitter in March. The recent popularity of these two apps demonstrates just how important it is to be able to deliver immediacy and to integrate into the social networks. YouTube is still undoubtedly the benchmark video posting platform, but new players are now emerging, placing the emphasis on immediacy, enhanced integration into social networks, and often providing a new, more immersive experience.

So the popularity of video on Facebook should not be seen merely in terms of an achievement for Mark Zuckerberg’s company. It is also clear evidence that users are keen to watch video on the social networks.

Live, instantaneous videos becoming part of social networking

YouTube, founded in 2005 by three ex-PayPal employees, is today the number one platform worldwide for posting and watching video online, becoming the benchmark video site soon after its acquisition by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006. French company Dailymotion, which was founded the same year as its US rival, soon succumbed to the dominance of Google, whose CEO at that time was Eric Schmidt. In June 2007 Schmidt went to Paris to launch the French version of YouTube, thus unleashing head-on competition with Dailymotion. Today, no less than 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute on to YouTube. The platform is available in 75 countries and 61 different languages and, perhaps even more impressive, the number of viewing hours per month is increasing by 50% year on year.

The YouTube site is of course entirely dedicated to video. Some of its functionality – profiles using Gmail accounts, the option of sharing on Google +, comments, likes, etc –  is similar to the features of a social network, but it is not really YouTube’s social aspects that attract and retain its users. Google, which claims to have 500 million users on Google+, has however tried to incorporate YouTube into its network in order to increase video sharing and boost the status of its platform. It now allows users to embed videos into a website or blog.

During Facebook’s F8 annual conference in March – mainly aimed at developers – the social network giant underlined its goals for video. The ‘Autoplay’ feature is already changing the goalposts. Facebook is claiming a massive increase in video viewing on its site now that it carries this new functionality. Even more striking is the fact that, according to a report from Seattle-based advertising software company Mixpo, in 2015 more advertisers are likely to use Facebook Video than YouTube. During the F8 conference, Facebook also announced its new ‘embed video’ functionality, which enables you to embed a Facebook video directly on to your site without having to include its supporting post.


Will Oculus redefine the video experience?

In a recent statement on the future of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said the company was focusing on its popular ‘newsfeed’ with a view to creating the “best personalised newspaper” for each of its 1.4 billion users. Facebook is looking to focus on the performance aspect of its newsfeed functionality, delivering a personalised, immersive user experience. In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus VR and set out to develop virtual reality (VR) services based on the Oculus Rift headset. One of Facebook’s goals is to develop video games in VR, but its main focus is to create immersive personal experiences, with ‘telepresence’ and immersive video top of the list.

During the Facebook F8 developers’ conference, Zuckerberg revealed that VR is now central to Facebook strategy. Facebook is in fact planning to enable its users to enjoy immersive experiences using Oculus Rift. They will be able to ‘get inside’ videos, and have the sensation of being in a different place. Facebook might also move towards developing paid-for VR/immersive video solutions for brands wishing to create 360° experiences for their customers and followers. Basically, Facebook seems set on turning video and VR into really ‘social’ experiences. All in all it is clear that the way in which firms and consumers use video is changing, with a trend towards the immediate and the social.

By Arthur de Villemandy