I’m a big fan of a podcast called The Campfire Project, hosted by my friends Matt Dusenbury and Chris Domico. They do an excellent job talking about the intersection between technology and storytelling in a way that you rarely hear. If you’re not already a subscriber, I warmly recommend you to become one as soon as possible.
In their most recent episode, the two of them talk about the latest things to come out of Facebook and this year’s F8 conference. As always, it’s an interesting chat between two very clever guys with a lot of insight and opinion.
However, I feel I need to talk a little about what I think is a number of very small oversights that, when put together, make for a very different picture than the one they paint.
Let’s start by looking at the discussion they had about Meerkat and Periscope. The argument was, if I can paraphrase and put some words in their mouths, that since these two companies haven’t been able to make a paradigm-altering product that dramatically increases the prevalence of live video, it’s hard to see how Facebook will succeed at the same task. It’s true – live video sharing hasn’t taken off, but it’s not because Meerkat and Periscope didn’t figure out how to solve the conundrum of doing it just right. I don’t even think it’s because they don’t have VR goggles or something like that. Facebook has another advantage.
Sure, it’s nice that Facebook stores the video for later viewing (of course they store it, this is Facebook after all) and have all the bells and whistles of likes and live comments built in. But I really don’t think any those are the selling points that will make Facebook live video several levels of magnitude larger than Meerkat and Periscope. The selling point is really so much simpler than that.
It’s because it’s on Facebook.
There’s an old saying in the camera world that The best camera is the one you have with you. It doesn’t matter if you buy a Canon 80D and kit it out with a dozen expensive lenses if you leave it at home because it’s too heavy. The best camera you have to capture a moment is still going to be your smartphone, since you’ve probably already got it in your hand when the moment comes to take a picture.
It’s more or less the same with applications. Just like Chris mentioned when he said that he didn’t even consider opening Meerkat or Periscope during the terrorist attacks in Paris and Belgium, I’m fairly sure he would have happened upon live videos of the event had they been in front of him on Facebook at the time. That’s the strength of Facebook – people are already there. It’s like opening a store at the mall; you get free foot traffic simply because people are already at the mall doing something else. They don’t need to make a conscious decision to go somewhere else to do something that they might not feel like doing already.
And Facebook is well aware of this. They’re not in the business of creating a social network any longer. They’re not even a publisher; they’re creating a platform. Facebook is there to facilitate conversation, photo sharing, news reading, and so much more. Instead of needing to leave Facebook to check the news on a completely different site, their intelligent algorithms will realize that you’re the right person to show the brand new 360-degree video of a breaking news situation in a city close to you.
Now they’re adding chatbots, a service that is guaranteed to bring them a whole lot of money and will probably revolutionize at least one industry – even though we don’t know which one quite yet. It wouldn’t surprise me if we’ll be posting messages to our local hair dresser soon asking them if they’ve got an opening this week and getting their bot replying “Sure, will tomorrow at 6:30 PM be good?” and going through the entire booking in a simple chat.
It’s going to be interesting to see where Facebook goes from here. They’ve thrown so many things at the wall in the past that haven’t stuck, and live video or chat bots could of course be the next couple of things that don’t stick. Either way; it’ll be interesting to follow where they go from here.