Twitter is introducing 360-degree live video streaming to its streaming app Periscope — its latest update as it attempts to fend off the threat from Facebook’s live video effort, Facebook Live.
The new feature, announced on Wednesday, isn’t initially available to all users. To begin with, only “select partners” will be able to make use of it, Alessandro Sabatelli, the company’s director of AR and VR, wrote in a blog post.
As Twitter struggles to turn its ailing fortunes around, it has placed a renewed focus on news and live events — areas where it has always historically bested its larger rival Facebook.
Its mission statement is “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers,” and it describes itself even more simply as: “It’s what happening.”
Live video is a key plank in these efforts: It owns livestreaming video app Periscope, and is integrating its features into the main Twitter app more and more tightly to encourage users to adopt the new format.
But Facebook is also significantly investing in live video, with the straightforwardly named Facebook Live — paying media partners (including Business Insider) to use the platform and heavily advertising the new feature. Although Twitter’s Periscope was first out the gate, it risks being overshadowed by Facebook’s efforts.
There’s an example of the first 360-degree livestreamed video on Twitter above. At any point in it, you can drag or swipe the field-of-view to change what you’re looking at — in this case, a popular Periscope users at a sunset on the Florida coast.
Facebook is — of course — also looking into 36o-degree live video. But this time, Twitter has effectively beaten it to the punch. Earlier in December, Facebook did its first 360-degree Facebook Live, featuring scientists in Utah researching the effects of isolation, The Verge reported. But it wasn’t a large-scale launch of the feature — instead, partners and publishers will only get access to the feature “in the coming months.”
Unlike Facebook, which has a market cap of almost $340 billion (£277 billion) and enjoys soaring profits, Twitter is struggling. The social network is barely growing, it is losing money, has a reputation for harassment and abuse on its platform, has been through rounds of layoffs, and its stock is far, far below its giddy heights of $70+ (£57) in early 2014.
Twitter explored a possible sale earlier in 2016, but it fell through — with potential buyers Salesforce and Disney reportedly put off in part because of Twitter’s harassment problem.
There have recently been a series of high-profile executive departures too. Just before Christmas, the news broke that the struggling social network’s chief technology officer, Adam Messinger, and its VP of product, Josh McFarland, are both leaving the company. They’re the latest in an exodus of top executives: Adam Bain, Twitter’s COO, stepped down in November. And Richard Alfonsi, VP of ad sales, jumped ship at the start of December for Stripe.
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