Instagram's Latest Update Expands Live, Making It Much More Useful

Photo: Courtesy of Instagram.
Update: November 21, 2017: Beginning today, Instagram is rolling out an option to request to join a Live Story. Just tap the "Request" button in the comment section. When the person hosting the Live accepts, you'll be able to become part of the conversation.
Update: October 24, 2017: Dual live streaming is finally expanding worldwide after a little over two months of testing. Simply invite a friend to join your broadcast and, if and when they accept, you'll be able connect live. You'll also both be able to try on face filters at the same time, by tapping the face icon along the bottom toolbar.
This article was originally published on August 8, 2017.
Double the people, double the fun? That's what Instagram is banking on with its latest update, which will give you the chance to go Live with a friend, family member, or, for influencers and celebrities, a fan, at the same time.
The feature will roll out as a trial to a randomly selected group of people today, and will test for the next few months before officially rolling out.
"After we launched the first version of Live [last November], we noticed that a lot of folks were using it with friends in person," Shilpa Sarkar, a product manager on the Live team, told Refinery29. "We wanted to bring that offline behavior online, so to speak, with a feature that allows you to be live with a friend even if you aren't in the exact same space."
Courtesy of Instagram.
A two-person live stream proved to be both a product and technical challenge. The Live team had to figure out how both people would appear onscreen. Instead of using the FaceTime model, which makes one caller appear much smaller, Instagram wanted to make the broadcast a split screen since they envision these streams to be an equal back and forth between two people. Sarkar says this is something influencers have been asking for, as a way to communicate more directly and openly with fans.
Then there's the issue of making sure the two-person livestream actually works. "Usually when you watch a livestream it has a very smooth playback," Lu Chen, an engineering manager on the Live team told Refinery29, "[With] two people talking back and forth, we needed to make sure that's super realtime because no one no one wants to bring on a guest and wait 10 seconds to have a back and forth conversation."
Photo: Courtesy of Instagram.
Over the past couple of months, the Live team has been fine-tuning the product, nicknamed project Tango (as in "it takes two to tango"). Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger recently hosted a livestream from the company's Menlo Park offices and invited various members of the New York team to give viewers office tours.
While you can only have one guest on at a time, what's especially impressive about this new feature is that you can bring on as many guests or co-hosts as you want. At least, as many as you can fit in to the course of an hour — the current livestream maximum. Simply end a conversation with one person, and invite someone new to join. For those who don't want to go Live on their own, the two-person stream may be a more comfortable alternative. It may also be a way that some of your favorite brands will start communicating directly with customers.
To use this new feature, start by going live: In Instagram Stories, toggle over from the "Normal" camera screen to "Live" mode. Then tap the new faces icon that appears in the bottom right. Select one friend to go live with and press "Add." Your invitee will get a pop-up notification and will need to accept before joining the broadcast. You or your guest can end the conversation at any time by tapping the "X" in the corner of the screen. Then, the original broadcaster can keep going on their own, invite someone new on, or end Live altogether. You'll still be able to share the video to your Story afterwards if you want to extend its lifespan.
The Live team believes this feature will help offset the formality of staged posts: If Instagram feeds can be full of posed shots and perfectly arranged pool floats, Live is the opposite.
"Live brought on a new level of authenticity," Sarkar said. "The way people are sharing is really casual, it's just to say, 'Hey, here's what's going on right now.' There's no sense of a barrier — it's not really produced, it's not live TV."
Grab your phone, pick a friend, and get ready to tango.
Related Video:

More from Tech

R29 Original Series