As has been clear from its business model for the past several years, Facebook wants to become a universal point of access for almost everything. The days of it being a simple social media platform came and went a long time ago. When it decided it wanted to break into the direct messaging market, it acquired WhatsApp. When it wanted to become the world’s largest digital photo repository, it bought Instagram. Now it seems that the company wants to steal in on territory held by YouTube and Twitch.
Making money and creating money are two things that Facebook has become particularly adept at in recent years. It wants to create a whole currency in the shape of Facebook Libra. It would also like people to use that currency to play best online slots at its Facebook Casino. The fact that cryptocurrencies already exist, online slots websites already exist, and some online slots websites even allow people to pay using cryptocurrency already doesn’t seem to matter. Facebook sees how much money is made by online slots websites, and how rapidly the value of crypto can rise, and it wants in on the action. It’s had difficulty breaking into both markets – but it might have more luck with this new endeavor.
Starting very soon (the company hasn’t yet come up with a specific date), Facebook users will be permitted to charge their audience for watching live video feeds. This is a form of income that barely even existed three or four years ago, but we’re now living in an age where people can make six figures per year streaming themselves playing video games online, and Facebook wants a cut of that money. The news, which was announced earlier this week, will be seen as a direct attack on both Twitch and YouTube. Both platforms are already in competition with each other and have lured away high-profile streamers from each other in the past. Now it seems that they’re going to have another company in competition with them for those users and views – and that competition comes with very deep pockets.
This isn’t the first time that Facebook has tried to compete with YouTube. Several years ago, they created Facebook Watch – a video sharing platform that mimics several of the features of YouTube. They backed the new platform heavily at the time of its release, and even invested in original programming from companies like WWE in an attempt to drive users toward it, but it’s been considered a failure. Despite Facebook Watch being accessible with the click of a single button from the Facebook home screen, many users don’t even know that it’s there. The company will be hoping for better luck by putting users in charge of driving traffic, and hopefully recruiting streamers who’ll bring their own audience along with them.
At this point, it isn’t clear how much of a cut of the streamer’s income Facebook will take in return for providing the service. It may be the case that they accept a standard fee instead of charging a percentage – and if they do, this would be a powerful motivator to streamers who already have a YouTube or Twitch channel but might consider moving if the deal was right. In an attempt to garner positive PR, the company has also announced that if a streamer is raising money for a charity or a non-profit rather than for themselves, Facebook will allow the cause to receive 100% of all revenue raised and receive no income itself.
Initially, it’s thought that the biggest beneficiaries of the move to allow paid access to streams will be bands and musicians. While the majority of streamers on other platforms are gamers or teachers, Facebook has a near-monopoly on hosting live concerts and performances, and it will be hoping to turn this monopoly into financial strength. As social media has become the most important promotional and marketing tool for the majority of up-and-coming performers, having performance videos available for streaming online might soon become an expected part of any band’s media kit. It’s clear that far more people than just musicians might be in a position to benefit from this new feature, but they form the focus of the initial marketing effort by Facebook to make people aware of the new feature.
This new move is just one of many made recently by Facebook as it seeks to freshen up its proposition for the new decade and shake off some of the bad press that followed it around during the past few years of the last one. At the same time as announcing the ability to charge for live streams, the company also confirmed that Facebook Messenger will soon have a new feature called ‘Messenger Rooms.’ Based on the description alone, this sounds like a facility to host video calls with multiple people at the same time, and so it’s likely to be an attempt to cash in on the recent rise of the Zoom and Houseparty apps. WhatsApp has also recently been enhanced to allow multiple simultaneous video calls, and so the move may amount to nothing more than porting the feature across from one Facebook-owned platform to another.
Away from the headline-grabbing news, there are a few more Facebook projects happening below the radar at the moment. A new feature that allows couples in a romantic relationship to share notes, songs, and pictures together in a private folder has recently been announced, and what appears to be a Facebook-branded clone of Pinterest has also been made available in some territories on a trial basis as well. The planned launch of Facebook Dating, however, has been held up due to privacy concerns, and their chances of getting Libra off the ground appear to be just as remote as they were twelve months ago. The company has been unable to win the approval of the US authorities to create and service the new currency, and without that approval, they’ll be unable to proceed any further.
The amount of data that Facebook already knows about us is a concern to many people, and allowing it even further access to our homes by way of a live video is just one more avenue for them to pursue when it comes to marketing, but if the idea is executed correctly it could turn into a way of making a living for numerous budding performers and singers. We’ll wait to see more details before we form any judgments.