Facebook is taking video sharing via mobile seriously. But not with a live-streaming app, yet.
Riff, now available for download for iOS and Android, is Facebook’s latest standalone app that allows its users to collaborate on video reels. One person records a video of up to 20 seconds and selects a tag that is trending or creates a new one. The user's Facebook friends can then view the video and add their own clips to it.
With Riff, it seems Facebook is still trying to catch up with Snapchat, the popular disappearing video messaging app. Riff resembles Snapchat’s Our Story feature -- public photos and videos tied to popular events or by location. However, on Snapchat, videos must be submitted for approval and selections are made by Snapchat employees.
Facebook’s Slingshot was another Snapchat competitor for person-to-person video sharing, with some differences, such as unlocking video messages by sending one back. But Slingshot has yet to gain popularity. Creating and sharing short viral videos is also popular via Twitter-owned Vine, which Facebook already competes with via Instagram.
Riff is the latest project out of Facebook’s Creative Labs -- the team that produced news-reading app Paper, Groups and Rooms. Josh Miller, product manager at the Creative Labs, told the Verge that his team was inspired by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which caught on and spurred viral video sharing.
Riff comes at a time when live-streaming apps – Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope -- have gained popularity. Facebook has yet to introduce one of its own or announce any live-streaming feature in its family of apps. An April Fools’ joke did speculate that the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging app could integrate live-streaming functions. Facebook does have live-streaming capabilities through its desktop site. UStream and Livestream are both integrated with Facebook. But for live-streaming via mobile, the future is unclear.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized video during his opening keynote at Facebook’s F8 developer’s conference in March, predicting that in five years most of the content on the social network will be video. The site will soon support 360-degree videos in the News Feed and has also created an embeddable video player that lets people post videos directly to Facebook and then anywhere on the Web.