Facebook’s live streaming service is the new kid on the block, but how does the aptly named Live service compare to YouTube’s live streaming offerings, as well as Twitter-owned Periscope, Meerkat and Zapstream?
The live streaming market has grown large enough to support some impressive niche markets such as Twitch, popular with gamers (see what Facebook Live’s launch means for Twitch users here). So will Facebook Live get lost in the sea of social network add-ons, or can it compete head on with general broadcasting tools from its top rivals?
How to use: To start live streaming, just hit Update Status and tap on the Live Video icon, which looks like a man with a halo. Users can add a description of what’s about to happen as well as select the audience to which they want to share before hitting the ‘Go live’ button.
Once users go live, they will be able to see how many viewers are tuned in, names of friends watching the live stream, and the real-time stream of comments. After the live stream, the video will be save to the user’s Timeline, which they can choose to keep for others to view later, or delete.
Discovering live videos is easy enough, as they will appear in one’s News Feed. Also, when users watch a Live video, there’s a Subscribe button they can hit so that the next time a video goes live they will immediately get notified.
Availability: Facebook Live is currently only available to iOS users, with an Android version coming at a later date.
Pros and Cons: Though Facebook has rolled out Live to iOS users, it’s still in limited availability. Not all iOS users have access to the feature even if you’re in the U.S. It may take a bit of waiting before more people can try out this feature. The good thing about Facebook Live is that users will not need to download a separate app to start using it as updating a status is the way to access the feature. No need to learn using a new app.
YouTube Live streaming
How to use: To get started, setup a live streaming YouTube account here, have it verified using a phone a number, and keep it in good standing. Once an account is setup, the user will be provided with a link that can be used to publicly host streams.
Users will now have the option to schedule or immediately start streaming content over YouTube. With scheduled live streams, hosts can change privacy settings, while other options allow users to save a backup of the live stream for redundancy and manually start/stop a stream.
While Facebook’s users will undoubtedly find a number of use cases for the social network’s live streaming feature, YouTube has attracted an array of reasons for live streaming, from game play to news, sports event and tutorials. The service also allows live streamers to interact with their audience as well as customize audio/video, monetize the show with ads, make a highlight reel, and more.
Availability: Right now YouTube Live streaming is in beta and available on desktop.
Pros and Cons: YouTube Live streaming is only accessible when you go to YouTube on your browser, but it doesn’t work when you do it on your mobile browser. The YouTube app currently doesn’t have access to this live streaming feature so if you want to access this, you need to go to your computer or laptop and have your webcam ready. Another downside is that you have to download an encoder before you can start streaming, as this compresses your video so it will be available for viewing on more devices including mobile.
How to use: After creating an account by either using your Twitter account or your mobile phone number, users can start a live broadcasting immediately. For iOS users, open the Broadcast Tab by tapping the Camera icon at the bottom center of the app. For Android users, tap the red Camera icon on the bottom right.
Users can now enter a title to describe the broadcast, choose whether to make it private or public, limit chat and/or tweet the live stream, manage location settings, via the three icons above ‘Start Broadcast’. Tap ‘Start Broadcast’ when ready and when done broadcasting, just swipe the screen down and tap ‘Stop Broadcast.’ The host will then have the option to save the video, share it with others or delete it.
To view live broadcasts, just tap the TV or globe icon. Tapping on a live broadcast allows viewers to send hearts by hitting anywhere on the screen, or join in on the conversation using the comment bar at the bottom of the screen. Broadcasts can also be shared with friends. Periscope added support for Apple TV, which means videos are available on a larger screen.
In January 2015, Twitter acquired Periscope for an estimated value of $100 million in stocks and cash, but it was not released until March 26 of the same year. When the app was released, Twitter cutoff Meerkat’s (Life On Air, Inc.) access to Twitter graphs, as it allows users to directly stream to Twitter users. Twitter has used celebrities to entice Meerkat users to jump ship.
Pros and Cons: Periscope is all about live streaming, so a host can’t schedule live streams or record videos only to be streamed at a later time or date. However, it’s a great tool for sharing what’s happening right then and there.
Another plus for this app is that one can use both rear and front cameras on their smartphone. Just have to double tap on the screen while Periscoping to change cameras.
How to use: After downloading the app, create an account by using your mobile phone number. You will then have a choice to connect your Facebook and/or Twitter account which makes it easier to connect with people you know or follow you. Whenever a user broadcasts, a link will be posted on Twitter. The Meerkat home screen has two buttons: Schedule and Stream. Above the buttons is a blank box where users can add a description of what’s happening.
When a user begins broadcasting, their Twitter followers using the Meerkat smartphone app will be notified that a stream has gone live. Once live, users will be able to see who’s tuned in, as well as interact with viewers. Use the icons on the screen to re-stream the stream, send hearts, or chat with other Meerkaters. In July 2015, Meerkat introduced Cameo, a feature that allows the broadcaster to select a viewer to take over the stream for up to 60 seconds. This makes streaming more interactive for both the broadcaster and the viewers.
Once the broadcast is done, the user has the choice to delete or download the video. There are no replays on Meerkat, but live streams can be re-tweeted by viewers. For the Schedule feature, users have the option to add a cover photo and set the time when the stream will go live.
Pros and cons: Though one can sign up using your phone number alone, this can be tricky and time consuming. I personally tried this and had to repeat the signup process four times before the account was created. Also, it’s easier to connect one’s Facebook and Twitter account to Meerkat for easy login.
Though Cameo is a cool feature that fosters interaction between the streamer and viewer, the viewer can easily spoil the stream with nonsense and obscenity, something a broadcast host may not fancy.
How to use: After downloading the app, create an account by either using your Facebook or Twitter account or enter your mobile phone number. just tap the Zap icon to start streaming. Swipe right or left to access editing features that can stretch or squish the broadcast image, along with image filters and a tool to change the pitch of one’s voice.
What makes this app different from other streaming apps is that after a live stream is over, the app automatically stitches the best parts of the stream to create a 15-second video which can then be shared to everyone else. Users can broadcast to Twitter, Facebook, or the Zapstream community as well as follow other users and get notified when a stream goes live.
Availability: Only available on iOS for now.
Pros and Cons: It’s fun to look at Zaps, or the short video summary of streams, but looking for live streams to watch is not as user friendly.
On the flip side, users can stream right away, schedule a stream, and even set viewers. Applying filters is as easy as swiping the screen, while the in-app editor makes great use of icons for adding text, changing voice pitch, doodling and flipping cameras.
Though I have yet to personally try Facebook Live, the fact that you don’t need to download a separate app just to live stream sounds appealing. Ease of use goes to Periscope as its interface is quite clean and easy to understand, but Cameo on Meerkat is really great to entice viewers to interact and watch more of your videos.
But if you want a more interesting twist, the filters and editing tools offered by Zapstream is also good. All these apps have their own strong points, but if you’re a heavy Facebook user among other social media platforms, then Facebook Live will be a great tool for you to share what’s happening with you life in real time, in live video format. You just have to wait until it rolls out to more users.