Instagram is expanding its livestreaming function, which will now allow up to four people to go live on a split screen. Now, your smallish Zooms or camera-ready Clubhouse discussions can happen in Instagram Live Rooms.
“The number one request we heard was: ‘How can I bring in more than one person?’” Vishal Shah, head of product for Instagram, told BuzzFeed News.
During the pandemic, going live on Instagram with another user, a feature that launched in 2017, has become increasingly popular. The live music series Verzuz started at the beginning of the pandemic, filling the void for live music with performers like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu using the "Live with" feature.
The pandemic has also created a demand for virtual hangouts, and Instagram Live has become a useful tool for celebrity interviews and collaborations between creators. When two people go on Live together, both of their followers get notified, expanding their reach.
Instagram has already rolled out the four-person rooms in India and Indonesia, where Shah said uses have included tutorials from makeup artists, discussions on plant care, and content from other types of creators. The feature will be rolling out worldwide starting today, although some people may not see it right away. Monetization features that already exist in Live, like paid badges or fundraisers to outside charities will be possible in the four-way chats.
For moderation and privacy, anyone blocked by any of the four people on Live will not be able to watch the stream.
Instagram has been more conservative about big new features compared to Facebook, which owns the platform, and has stayed simpler to use. Its latest big new feature was Reels, a TikTok clone, which a recent redesign put into the center button of the app to encourage more engagement.
Expanding Live to more people makes the feature more similar to a panel discussion or group talk show, a format that’s proven wildly popular on Clubhouse, the audio chatroom app. Twitter and Facebook are both looking into creating their own versions of an audio chatroom, with Twitter launching Spaces, and Facebook reportedly building its own version. Of course, live video is very different from audio-only — part of Clubhouse’s appeal is that you don’t have to be camera-ready to jump into the discussion, and you can listen in the background like a podcast. On the other hand, it can be hard to tell when to speak without the visual cues in other people’s faces, making a lot of Clubhouse chats a constant stream of “oh, sorry, go ahead…”
After the last year, we’ve all gotten much more comfortable on group video chats, so the Live Rooms seems a natural extension. Thankfully, Shah said a key feature will be coming soon: the mute button.