Facebook’s quest to mimic Snapchat is undeniable at this time. In just the previous few months, Instagram, Whatsapp and Messenger have all integrated some type of Stories — a disappearing slideshow format that Snapchat is well-known for — while Facebook Live dabbled in Snapchat-esque selfie filters.
Now, after months of experiments and tests, it’s time for the primary Facebook app to enter on the action too. Today, the business is officially rolling out three new Snapchat-inspired features to its core app: a whole new in-app camera that’s chockful of filters, effects and masks; Facebook’s individual Stories; and Direct, which enables you to share photos and videos with specific people for a set time frame.
Once you launch the updated Facebook app, you will see the brand new Stories navigation bar prominently featured at the very top. On the far left is a shortcut for Direct sharing, the next bubble is for Your Story (you can tap it to increase it), as the rest are Stories of your closest friends. Each Story interface is nearly identical compared to that of Instagram’s version — you can move backwards and forwards through the slideshow by tapping left or right, and whether it’s your own Story, you can start to see the number of views along with the names of the individuals who saw it. Additionally, you can leave direct replies on other’s Stories, which in turn appear together with this content. The replies only live given that this content, however, so after the photo is fully gone, the comment’s gone too.
"We have been very text-centric during the past," says Connor Hayes, a Facebook product manager. "But what we have been seeing is that just how people create content is changing, from text to photos and videos. […] We’re trying to upgrade the app to become more centered around just how folks are behaving and creating this content in social apps. And that starts with the camera."
Image credit: Facebook
Which is why the new camera is a lot simpler to access. Before, the fastest way to launch the camera in the Facebook app was to tap "Photos" and choose the camera icon. Now, that camera icon is situated left of the search field, and is seen as soon as you launch the app. Alternately, you can swipe from the house screen, and that’ll talk about the camera work as well.
The camera interface is totally not the same as before too. On the left side of the screen are little navigation dots, which match different filters that the app has pre-selected for you personally. Simply swipe up or right down to scroll through them, and you will start to see the filter take influence on the primary screen. These pre-selected filters are chosen predicated on an algorithm that susses out whether you’ll like them, and in addition on your own location. So if you are in London, you almost certainly won’t see a SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA themed filter, for instance.
Image credit: Facebook
But if none of these filters strike your fancy, don’t worry, because you can tap a choice that will reveal as much as 70 other options (that number changes based on your region). You can choose anything from selfie masks to Prisma-esque style effects to simple frames. In a short demo, I saw filters that showed animated pizza slices flying out of my mouth, round glasses superimposed on my face and a "I Miss You" message scrawled before me. Other options add a mirroring effect, one which shows a lazy sloth together with your mind, a mustache, a pride rainbow, a glitter beard and even an impact that makes you appear to be a minion from Despicable Me.
Indeed, Facebook not merely partnered with different film studios for licensed content, in addition, it commissioned two artists — Hattie Stewart from the U.K. and Doug Coupland from Canada — to create special artistic filter effects. Among Coupland’s filters, for instance, shows concentric colors radiating from your own head. Open the mouth area, and the circles now form in the mouth area and on your own forehead.
Kristen Spilman, the director for art and animation responsible for the camera effects, says that she hopes these filters help people go to town. "Our new camera puts visual content in the centre of the Facebook experience," she says. "While we wish our effects to be fun to use, it’s more important that they are thoughtful and relevant in enhancing relationships."
Image credit: Facebook
What I came across particularly intriguing is that Spilman’s small team of effects artists took pains to essentially ensure that the filters resonate with the neighborhood culture. For instance, when the team tested visual text filters like "OMG" and "LOL" in Ireland, they discovered that they weren’t really all that popular. But what did work were more regional examples like "Gas" (which means "astonishing") and "Some Craic" (this means to possess a good time).
After you have chosen your filter, you can write text along with it or doodle onto it with your selection of brush. Then, you can save it to your camera roll and do nothing together with your creation, or you can choose to talk about it. You can post it to Newsfeed if you would like your photo to go on forever, or you can post it to Your Story in the event that you just want to buy up for another a day, or you can share it directly together with your friends via the brand new Direct feature. In the event that you do send your photo or video directly, remember that your friends is only going to be able to notice once and replay it once. Once it’s over, it’s gone.
Image credit: Facebook
"Stories is among the most format for folks to create photos and videos and share them with each other immersively across social apps," Hayes says. "That is a thing that Snapchat’s really pioneered. Our take is that Stories has turned into a format for people to talk about and consume photos and videos across all social apps." When asked why someone would use Facebook Stories over Instagram Stories or vice versa, Hayes says that differing people utilize the apps differently. "This will depend on what they use each app, and who their network is on each app," he says, pointing out that oftentimes both have different audiences.
"Over the coming months, we intend to introduce new ways for the Facebook community to create their own frames and effects which you can use on any photo or video made up of the brand new Facebook camera," said Facebook in a statement. "Our goal is for the camera to become a home to a huge selection of dynamic and fun effects that provide you new methods to interact with friends, family, as well as your community."
Facebook’s new camera, Stories and Direct sharing will be rolling out to all or any users on both Android and iOS throughout this week.