4 Features the Facebook Live Map Needs

Facebook's Live map is "weirdly hypnotic" -- but it's imperfect.

Facebook Live Map

Yesterday, Facebook continued its unceasing efforts to get you to fall in love with live video. It announced new features, like Live for group and events, Live filters, and — without much of a display — a Facebook Live map.

There’s plenty to see on the Facebook Live map: one can see blunts smoked, Versace products browsed, and arrests made. It’s a glorious time-waster, this Live map. If Facebook gets its way, you’ll have to get used to it.

It’s clear that this push for Facebook Live to take off is a direct affront to Snapchat. Back in 2014, Snapchat turned down Facebook’s acquisition offer of $3 billion. Since then, Mark Zuckerberg and his squad in Menlo Park have been doing their darndest to overtake the popular, playful chat app; meanwhile, Snapchat’s been ramping up its own offerings and taking on other big players.

But despite Facebook’s big Live effort, the social media monolith could still benefit from swiping a page or two of Snapchat’s book. The Facebook Live map is enthralling, but the page itself could be vastly improved. The four overarching features it’s lacking are data visualization, community coordination, platform integration, and narrative guidance.

Data visualization

The Live map, as it stands, has very little data visualization. One could describe the map as minimalistic: it represents a stream’s popularity by its blip’s size, and an engaging stream’s blip will seem as if to radiate. (Unpopular, unengaging streams are just normal, bland, blue blips.) When you hover your mouse over an engaging stream, lines extend to indicate where the traffic’s coming from.

But we could all make use of a sidebar, even if it’s just a pop-out sidebar, that gives us more. Some worthwhile, real-time information that would come in handy: the numbers of active streamers and viewers, the top streamers, and the most engaging — i.e. most viewed, most liked, most commented — streams.

These features would be, first and foremost, fun, but — more than that — they’d be practical. As major events occur around the world, the Facebook Live map will be an informational tool. Streamers become news broadcasters, and viewers get to find out which streamers are doing it the best.

Community coordination

On a related note, the Facebook Live Map could benefit from offering some additional community participation features. With the advent of Twitter, for instance, broadcast television first suffered and then attempted to incorporate the media. Now it’s par for the news-channel course to see tweets flitting around the screen. Facebook Live, however, is already online and already encourages viewer participation – but only by starting an individual stream of their own.

If there were a chat channel (or something) for the Live Map itself, viewers would benefit: it’d be another community that Facebook users could interact and share information in.

Narrative guidance

Here’s where Facebook could learn from what Snapchat’s done. As people live-stream from various events or places, Facebook could – either with good ol’ human brainpower or with one of many sophisticated artificial intelligences – collate highlights from streams into an edited narrative. As it stands now, we’re left with discrete streams; with a little oversight, Facebook could maintain that entertainment while also encouraging miniature live-stream stories.

Like this video below, for example – only more often and not an advertisement:

Living room and mobile viewing

Sure, live-streaming may one day be fun and rewarding to do yourself. But until that day, it’s far more entertaining to sit back and watch how weird people are willing to get on live video. Enter streaming platforms: Roku, Apple TV, and the like. A Facebook Live Map channel would be infinitely entertaining, and equally procrastinatory. Facebook says it’s currently rolling out a Live-channel-esque feature on the mobile app, one that’ll let you browse by topic, etc. – but the Live map is not available on mobile.

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