Facebook Live is introducing a new feature called Watch Party that allows all your pals in a Facebook group to stream clips together—from dog videos to Jada Pinkett Smith’s new show—and interact while they’re doing it.
Sure, it’s nice to hang out with people IRL, but this feature is presumably good for faraway friends or those days when you don’t want to leave the house. According to CNN, anyone in a Facebook group can launch a Watch Party and become a host, with the ability to designate co-hosts. Hosts can control the playlist of videos and the playback. Meanwhile, anyone in the group can give suggestions for videos, ask questions, and leave comments or reactions. Whenever someone is starting a party, Facebook alerts all the members in the group.
"When you're watching at the same time, there's a lot more conversation that happens," said Fidji Simo, Facebook's head of video.
The feature has been tested since January and is getting its official worldwide rollout today. Some of the test groups reportedly consisted of 10-hour parties, and my guess is that Facebook is using this feature to reel people in for everything from instructional cooking videos to gaming. This move puts the platform in competition with YouTube and the gaming site Twitch, companies that already have beef over this internet real estate.
Right now these parties are just for groups, but of course, Facebook is now testing the possibility of hosting parties for people in your friends list. And if you never want to use Watch Party, you don't have to. "If you don't want to do it, you don't have to engage and it won't change the way you view content," principal analyst Michael Inouye told CNN.
This kind of joint live streaming does raise concerns, considering some of the more troubling past uses of Facebook Live, which includes streaming murder and suicides. There’s also a concern about this being used to share any sort of revenge porn or other harmful content, considering some groups are literally dedicated to it. But Facebook is optimistic it will be able to regulate that kind of content. "We've also done a lot to improve our AI to flag violent content proactively," Simo told CNN, saying the platform also encourages users to flag anything harmful.