Twitter announced that users will now be able to live-stream 360-degree video on its service.
The announcement is part of Twitter's efforts to keep users on its service instead of sending them to other websites. In recent years, the company has added more photo editing features, introduced a section called Moments to collect news stories into a single stream, and emphasized video streaming via its Periscope service, among other things. (There was also a sad attempt to become a music discovery hub with the practically stillborn #Music.)
These new 360-degree videos are limited in their scope. People can't strap on a virtual reality headset to interact with the content, for example, but will instead control it by clicking with their mouse or swiping their finger along their smartphone's display. This is less about letting people have a meaningful experience with interactive videos and more about embracing the site's voyeuristic tendencies, as Twitter made clear in its blog post on the feature:
Starting today, you can check out live, interactive 360 videos from interesting broadcasters and explore what’s happening with them. You’ll be able to get an inside look with well-known personalities and go behind the scenes at exclusive events.
But this addition could have a more profound effect on Twitter than even the company realizes. These features are often underwhelming at first glance--just look at Facebook Live, which was initially pitched as a way for public figures to interact with their audiences. The utility has since become a vital tool for sharing news, particularly when up-to-the-minute updates are desirable, even though Facebook Live initially seemed like a vapid expansion.
Unfortunately, those hidden potentials aren't often revealed until services are available to everyone. Facebook Live took off as a news tool when anyone with a smartphone and the Facebook app could use it; Twitter's 360-degree videos aren't as accessible. The company said that anyone can interact with 360-degree videos, which are marked with a "LIVE 360" badge, yet Periscope has limited broadcasting of these videos to a handful of its users:
We’re testing 360 broadcasts with a small group of partners, and will be rolling out this feature more broadly during the coming weeks. You can apply to join the waitlist here.
Still, at least Twitter is expanding both its service and Periscope. That's welcome news after the company announced that it's killing Vine--kind of--and doing its best to survive despite its financial challenges. Now, at least Twitter's approaching the same capabilities as Facebook, which added 360-degree video support in September 2015, and YouTube, which did the same in April.