29 March 2016 14:00:13 IST

Lights, camera, live-stream!

Can Google’s live-streaming app, YouTube Connect, take on Facebook Live and Twitter’s Periscope?

Video is undoubtedly the fastest moving media on social networks.

After sitting on its haunches and watching Facebook and other networking sites whiz by, Google’s YouTube has finally decided to join the live-streaming party — one full year after Twitter launched Periscope.

YouTube Connect is Google’s answer to Periscope (which has already touched 200 million broadcasts) and Facebook Live (launched in December 2015), which has been aggressively rolling out one new feature after another. Reports suggest YouTube Connect will be rolled out in May this year.

The ironical war

Some Samsung phones such as Note 5 and S6 can already live-stream within the YouTube app but, with Connect, Google is making it mainstream, providing everyone the power to host live videos. All you need to do is log into the app through your YouTube or Google account and start streaming videos from your mobile phone. You can tag friends and chat while at it.

What is ironical in the entire video war is that Google, which pioneered videos with YouTube, is now getting left behind. The attack is coming from all sides.

Facebook reported eight billion video views per day in November 2015 — double the number it was getting in April 2015. Now Snapchat has caught up too. This March, it reported eight billion video views. Both Facebook and Snapchat have advantages over YouTube, as the videos on these platforms are more easily shareable.

And Facebook has been investing so much on the video front that it’s only a matter of time before it leaves everyone behind. The place where Facebook videos score is their seamless arrival on your timeline (from embeds to autoplays, the tech has moved very fast). Now FB is testing a ‘suggested video’ interface that will recommend more clips to watch based on your preferences. Since FB knows more about you than YouTube does, it might hold an edge when it comes to suggestions.

Getting into sporting turf

Even on the live video front, Facebook is leaving no stone unturned to see that it stays ahead of the competition. It has announced that it is changing its news feed algorithm to promote live videos.

And there are reports that Facebook might be sewing up deals to livestream football games and other events. It’s reportedly in talks with NFL to buy the rights to stream football games live, which will pitch the social networking giant directly against TV companies. Facebook’s Vice-President of partnerships Dan Rose also told Variety magazine that it is exploring deals with Hollywood actors and music artistes to bring them on its livestreaming fold.

Now, that is big! Not only does it mark a shift from Facebook’s user-generated content approach (though, with its Instant Articles, which allows publishers’ stories to appear on your TL, that shift had already begun), it shows the social networking giant’s intent to dominate the video space.

Where YouTube can take heart is in the duration of FB’s video views — people usually watch an average of barely 15 to 40 seconds on their news feed. On YouTube, however, people watch videos for at least more than two minutes. So while Facebook might provide greater reach to video content, YouTube is where the message will be heard (and seen) in its entirety, or at least 75 per cent of it. Also, discoverability is higher on YouTube, as Google’s humungous search engine optimisation capabilities are built into it.

The 360-degree view

Facebook is now going for the jugular by scaling the next frontier — 360 degree videos and virtual reality. Over 20,000 360-degree videos, which is the first step to virtual reality, have been uploaded on FB. Now, in partnership with Samsung’s Gear VR headset, and its own Oculus Rift moving very fast, Facebook’s video capability will soon enter the realms of virtual reality.

YouTube too added a 360-degree video support function in mid-2015. While the player exists, it will be worth seeing how Google integrates the whole piece.

Social TV is going to rule the world!