The social media wars have just generated a new form of video calling.
In an effort to one-up Snapchat, which recently added live video chat, Instagram has introduced a new live video function of its own that’s part live stream, part video call, and part chat show. The new feature is still undergoing testing, having been released to a small group of Instagram users in August, but will be rolled out across the entire network in the coming months.
In brief, it’s a way for followers to join in a friend’s live stream in front of their entire social media circle. With a little future projection, it could be a new way to turn a video call into a live, evolving mass broadcast.
The Instagram Go Live Video feature could remove the distinction between public and private, and create a new form of entertainment linking potentially endless chains of online social circles.
YouNow Meets Interactive Video Calling
The functionality of Instagram’s new toy is straightforward. You start a live stream, make it available to all your contacts, and then invite them up one at a time to join you on camera for a conversation broadcast throughout the group. The watching audience can share their opinions of your live chat through the usual on-screen heart icons and text messages, and when you feel one of them has something that needs to be shared in greater depth, you get your current broadcast partner to step down and you bring them up.
It’s the exact interactive feature we at VC Daily have long been arguing should be added to Youtube Live and YouNow. Those platforms have made online stars out of amateur live streamers who provide regular broadcasts of themselves doing everything from sleeping to setting themselves on fire.
We’ve always felt that merging the interactive, face-to-face technology of video conferencing with the anarchy of these live streams would add a whole new dimension to their craft. What Instagram has created is a way to achieve this feat on a grand social media stage.
The only fly in this mixed media ointment is the fact that user-generated, audience participation live streaming has been tried before and flamed out quickly.
Blab’s Warning on User Generated Live Broadcasts
Live streaming app Blab was created out of the ashes of AOL’s famed Bebo blunder, only to itself become a cautionary tale just a year or so after launching. In between those two failures, it stood as a fully interactive public live streaming service that allowed anyone willing to search through its random collection of broadcasts to join in the on-screen debate. It operated much the same way Instagram’s feature will work, with one user opening a stream and inviting, in this case, up to three audience members to join them on center stage.
The problem Blab encountered, and that it so honestly detailed in its farewell to the world, was the uncomfortable truth that most people just aren’t interesting enough to keep the attention of total strangers. At its peak Blab attracted 3.9 million users, but they proved to be more interested in chatting among themselves than watching and joining other people’s live streams.
What Instagram has going in its favor as it heads down a similar path is that it already has a core following of interconnected social media users locked into established groups. It isn’t asking anyone to watch strangers online, it’s asking people to stand up before their existing friends and start a live video conversation.
That fact, paired with another recent social media arrival, is what could make the new Go Live feature a much broader success than even Instagram is probably intending.
Instagram Go Live Video Could Connect Social Circles
Social media app Houseparty enjoyed Blab-like user numbers at its peak, before hitting a plateau and finding itself struggling to add new callers to its guest list. It’s a hive network made up of individual video chat rooms created by its users and made available to their friends. Uniquely, it has a friend-of-a-friend function that lets people enter a private chat room if they are friends with someone already inside–even if they aren’t themselves directly connected to the host. It’s an attempt to recreate a real-world social scene where strangers can meet in the comfort of mutual friends.
It could push Instagram’s new idea into a large-scale platform for millions.
If a host starts up a live stream targeted at their immediate friends, but can let those friends each invite a plus-one, their potential audience doubles. Soon there’s an interactive series of concentric social circles providing an audience of millions to be invited up to chat with the latest online star.
YouNow and Youtube Live Have already proved there’s an audience out there for amateur live streaming. Given Instagram has more than 700 million users in its network, there’s a chance an innovative new stream could grow to an average audience able to rival network television–only in this version the audience can get up on screen and take control of the show.