Facebook just introduced a new video watching service and considering the direction the internet has been taking in the past couple of years, it shouldn't come as a big surprise to anyone. Before we dig into why I think it's a logical step forward for Facebook, let's first take a look at what this new feature actually is and how it operates.Say Hello to Watch
Image Credit: Facebook
The platform is called Watch, and given the explanation Facebook's put up on its newsroom, it feels a lot like YouTube:
“Watch is personalized to help you discover new shows, organized around what your friends and communities are watching. For example, you’ll find sections like “Most Talked About,” which highlights shows that spark conversation, “What’s Making People Laugh,” which includes shows where many people have used the “Haha” reaction, and “What Friends Are Watching,” which helps you connect with friends about shows they too are following.”
The above is similar to YouTube, which has sections like “Your Subscriptions”, “Trending”, “Recommended”, “Entertainment” or “Watch it again”.
Another thing that makes it a lot like YouTube is the fact that it revolves around user-generated content. So, home-made videos and anything else which might fit along those lines.
“Watch is a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience, build a community of passionate fans, and earn money for their work. Shows are made up of episodes — live or recorded — and follow a theme or storyline. To help you keep up with the shows you follow, Watch has a Watchlist so you never miss out on the latest episodes.”
What’s also interesting about the way Facebook’s presented the new feature is the order in which it listed all the available platforms: “Watch will be available on mobile, on desktop and laptop, and in our TV apps.”
Keep in mind – it’s listing mobile first. It’s a strong indicator of where Facebook feels the future of video lies (more on that later, as well).
The comments are where Facebook decides to take it a step further compared to YouTube. They, too, will be live and will be a “part of the experience”. “So when you watch a show, you can see comments and connect with friends and other viewers while watching, or participate in a dedicated Facebook Group for the show.”
A logical step in a logical direction
Now that we know what Watch is and how it works, let’s briefly touch on why I feel it was long coming.
First (and foremost), all predictions on what the internet will look like in the next five years have the same conclusion: it will be dominated by video content. A higher penetration of high-speed broadband everywhere, followed by a decline in prices, has made viewing video over the internet a more enjoyable experience. And consumers have responded in kind A report by Cisco says that by 2020, 80 percent of all internet traffic will go on video, up from 73 percent last year. Five years ago, we were still counting how many pieces of content were watched – thinking of percentages of the ENTIRE global traffic was inconceivable at the time. So, how much data exactly are we going to watch in a few years’ time? Well, roughly three zettabytes. Yes, I know. Let’s just say it’s REALLY a lot.
Image Credit: Recode
Knowing that Facebook wants to be the omnipresent internet force, tapping into such an important trend was expected. As a matter of fact, Facebook has already been doing that for quite some time now. More than a year has already passed since the social media giants said it’s changing its algorithm to put a stronger emphasis on video. Then, in January this year, it changed its algorithm once again, this time to give priority to longer videos, and those with higher completion rates.
But that’s not everything Zuckerberg’s social fortress has been doing. Facebook has essentially become a media company, and as a such, video plays an extremely important role.
“Facebook is a new kind of platform. It’s not a traditional technology company. It’s not a traditional media company. You know, we build technology and we feel responsible for how it’s used,” Zuckerberg said back then. “We don’t write the news that people read on the platform. But at the same time we also know that we do a lot more than just distribute news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.”
And check this out – late this June, it was announced that Facebook struck a deal with Fox to livestream the Champions League. Yes, THE Champions League – one of the biggest sporting events in the world.
If that doesn’t spell “we’re a media company”, and “video is brutally important to us”, then I don’t know what does. All things considered, this makes Watch a step in the right direction for a company that wants to organize and upgrade on its video efforts.
Watch is not yet widely available. Facebook says it will introduce it to a “limited group of people” in the States, while the rest of the world will have to wait a bit.