How Snapchat Helped Trigger the Livestreaming Arms Race

Snapchat started the now revolution, and Twitter, YouTube and especially Facebook have taken notice.

You read the news: Facebook pays celebrities millions of dollars to use Facebook Live. YouTube has brought “live” to mobile. Amazon bought Twitch for almost $1 billion. Twitter has been acquiring more tools to help with Periscope and livestreaming. People have been horrifyingly shot or even killed while broadcasting via Facebook Live. Live video is making the world more real-time than ever before.

Live video has a long history

We have had livestreaming over the internet for more than a decade in various forms. Mark Cuban’s Broadcast.com stream of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 1999 was a watershed event (albeit a very slow-rendering one). Justin.TV, UStream and more have come and gone. More recently, you could almost blink and miss the hype and fade-out of Meerkat as it was compromised by larger players with built-in audiences. But why now are the “big internet companies” pushing livestreaming with such vigor?

Why is live video so hot right now?

The rise of DVRs, time-shifted TV, “Netflix and chill” and more has led to the increased importance of live content for TV. Internet giants covet TV ad dollars, so certainly the appeal of live video has financial motivations. But there is perhaps a more pressing strategic driver: Snapchat.

Snapchat drives a paradigm shift

Although Snapchat does not offer truly live video, its Live Stories and selfie-centric camera have triggered a paradigm shift to a more organic and first person perspective that is in the now.

Live Stories enable a very casual and stream-of-consciousness broadcasting of what you and your friends are doing or what is happening around you. And it is this first-person perspective that concerns giants such as Facebook and Twitter the most. Because Snapchat enables you to continuously update as you go, it provides the perfect in-the-moment fix. If done the right way, you almost feel like you are present with the person Snapping–perfect for satisfying your inner voyeur.

Live Stories present the most real, of-the-moment experience out there, which has been eating into the mindshare of Twitter and Facebook. Snapchat’s steady innovation is continuing to win over more and more people as they use its selfie filters, check out people’s Live Stories and even see what’s going on in the world with Discover. The common theme: It’s what is happening now.

The big three respond

Seeing the remarkable success of a platform providing personal and in-the-moment video, the other major social platforms have responded with a huge push into the livestreaming space. Live video is Facebook’s, Twitter’s and YouTube’s response to Live Stories.

Of all the platforms, though, Facebook is the one most closely tracking Snapchat’s progress. Facebook was famously turned down by Snapchat when the former made a multibillion-dollar offer to acquire the latter. Facebook attempted to mimic Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging capabilities with Poke. Facebook used to be cool, hip and filled with young people. Now Snapchat is the cool place to share and be seen.

Facebook’s answer to Live Stories

Facebook wants to be the entire internet, organized and filtered around your social content. The now is increasingly a huge part of that. Facebook has demonstrated an uncanny ability to rally the troops around perceived threats. Stories of how Facebook went into lockdown to ward off Google+ are now part of Silicon Valley lore.

Facebook Live is essentially its version of lockdown for Snapchat. The fact that Facebook Live is being used to broadcast protests and other pivotal events, as controversial and gut-wrenching as it has been at times, is validation that Facebook’s approach is gaining momentum.

With Facebook moving full steam-ahead on livestreaming, other platforms should be wise to take notice. Snapchat started the now revolution, and Twitter, YouTube and especially Facebook have taken notice that Live Stories might become the de facto “what’s happening now” among your personal circles. The tech giants have determined that live video is their best shot at recapturing this mindshare, and the battle over livestreaming and in-the-moment video is well underway.

Brian Shin is the founder and CEO of video audience measurement provider Visible Measures.