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Facebook introduces new livestreaming features as demand skyrockets

New Facebook Live features let you follow livestreams without a smartphone or Facebook account.
Karissa Bell, @karissabe
March 27, 2020
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Facebook is working on new features that make it easier for people to access live streams — even if they don't have a Facebook account — as it tries to meet the rise in demand for live video.

The company will begin allowing non-Facebook users to watch live streams from mobile devices, something previously only available on desktop. The feature is already available to Android users and will be rolling out to iOS "in the coming weeks."

Facebook is also adding new options that will allow livestreamers to reach those without a smartphone or access to reliable mobile data. Called "Public Switch Telephone Network," it will allow people to listen in on a livestream via a toll free number, similar to calling into a conference call. Similarly, Facebook Live is getting a new "audio only" mode so viewers can listen in without watching the accompanying video.

The new features could also help Facebook deal with the "unprecedented" surge in demand for its services in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The company said it's struggling to keep up with traffic, as more and more users turn to its messaging apps to stay in touch with loved ones.

Both video calling and live streaming are resource intensive for the company, which has already been forced to downgrade video quality in Europe. So if more users take advantage of features like audio only or calling into livestreams instead, it could also help Facebook conserve resources.

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