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If you’ve spent any amount of time on Facebook over the past year, you’ve probably noticed a new type of content – the 360-degree video – showing up in your newsfeed. Ever since October 2015, when Facebook first launched “360 Videos,” the social network has seen an explosion of 360-degree content.
Facebook and 360
According to Facebook, there are now 25 million 360-degree photos on the social network and 1 million 360-degree videos. Just to make sure people can find the “best of the best” – Facebook also hosts a site called Facebook 360, where you can browse through some of the best 360 content out there.
And now Facebook is taking the next step – at the beginning of March, it released a new Facebook 360 VR App for the Samsung Gear VR, the world’s most popular VR headset. The idea is that you can download the Facebook VR app to your Samsung phone (or other Android phone compatible with the Gear VR) and then be able to experience all that great 360-degree content within the world of virtual reality.
That emphasis on VR content is not a random move by Facebook. Remember – Facebook has invested over $2 billion in Oculus, and has been looking for ways to monetize VR content. At some point, people who create really great VR content are going to want to be paid for it, and that’s where Facebook and Oculus can become the market leader. In fact, in announcing the new Facebook 360 VR App, Zuckerberg referred to it as “social media from a new perspective.”
That’s obviously to make VR a little more accessible to the average person. You can think of 360-degree video as the “bridge” between regular social media and a new type of fully immersive social media.
Vimeo and 360
That’s an approach that Vimeo is taking, too — using the embrace of 360-degree video as an entry point into virtual reality. At the beginning of March, Vimeo also announced a big 360-degree video play. The company has created a new channel called “360 Cinema,” where it will showcase the best new 360 films from indie filmmakers. In addition, Vimeo will host tutorials and other events to help people learn how to master 360 video.
If you head over to Vimeo right now, you can find some truly epic 360 content – like a special from the American Museum of Natural History, which created a special experience called “Fossil Hunters of the Gobi.” There’s another VR feature called “Remember Pearl Harbor” and another called “History of Music.” This is slick, professional stuff — not 360-degree videos of LOL cats!
The two-tiered VR market
The examples of Facebook and Vimeo show two very different approaches to 360 content. While both see 360 video as an on-ramp to something much bigger (virtual reality!), Facebook is pitching its product to the average social media user, who probably just wants to watch funny cat videos in 360. In contrast, Vimeo is pitching its product to the indie filmmaker, as a way for them to eventually monetize some really great VR content. And wedged in between you have YouTube, which was actually the first to announce support for 360 video, but hasn’t done much with it since 2015.
So get ready for more 360 content in your social media newsfeeds. While VR may not yet be ready for primetime in 2017, it’s clear that it’s gaining much more momentum. Facebook, YouTube and now Vimeo are starting to lay down their claim to be the preeminent home for the web’s best VR content. All that competition has to be good for social media users.