So every day I ask myself, will this be the day that Facebook doesn’t announce a new product? And most of the time the answer is ‘no‘. Facebook Riff, which is a collaborative video tool, has rolled out globally in fifteen different languages, on both Android and iOS.
Here is what you do, you shoot a video of up to 20 seconds and then you tell your friends what they could add to it to make a story, or a theme of some kind, or a collection of funny faces, whatever. Your Facebook friends get a notification inviting them to contribute to your Riff. And then their friends are tagged to add scenes too. So it can go viral on a social graph. Riff is much like Snapchat story feature where your friends can add on by either reacting or any way they want. Facebook Riff is Creative Labs‘ latest project that also made Paper, Slingshot, Mentions, Rooms and groups, etc.
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Riff’s project manager George Miller informs TechCrunch’s Josh Ponstein that FacebookRiff was inspired actually by the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge because Facebookers were posting so many videos of them taking essentially the same video for charity. It helped Facebook grow its video views by 50% last year to reach a magnanimous 1 billion views per day.
A few limitations inside Riff
You can only shoot video in the app. The app does not allow you to upload anything. It does not allow your friends to like or comment either, which is a little weird considering it is a Facebook product, but they want video contributions. It’s also not like the apps that already exist, like JumpCamp or a video version of Everlapse or Snapchat.
Facebook Riff also allows you to fast forward the video clips to skip the boring ones. Riff only allows the friends of the original creator to add to the clip making it go viral through a social graph rather than spread worldwide like wildfire.
Will Riff survive?
The question now is if Riff will receive any traction. Facebook’s earlier attempt to create a similar app called Slingshot which launched to compete with the well-established Snapchat did not perform so well. Facebook Riff on the other hand is different, it takes the Snap chats stories feature and allows you to respond to them, or contribute your own bit, so it is more inclusive and fun.
Another point of concern where Riff is concerned is users are not too sure how to facilitate enough people to create videos and add to the created video that are interesting for others to watch. It is difficult to have multiple contributors and still keep up the quality of the video. Riff might become a hit in its earlier stages. It’s new and people are having fun contributing, but if nothing of interest to Facebook users gets uploaded, it might fade into the background fast after it loses steam.
Miller, however, is of the view that Riff’s only objective is not to grow. It is also a standalone app launched to test how people share, what experiences they are looking for, what videos interest others and the types of tools they want. This strategy of Facebook has worked for them before. They have consistently launched standalone apps to test features and then added these features in the main page. Facebook developed Stickers with Messenger, Animated designing with Paper, Drawing with Slingshot, and filters with Facebook Camera.
So even if Facebook Riff fails, it is still a win-win for Facebook. Biggies like Facebook have the resources to assign small teams to design apps and keep testing the market, even if a small feature catches on, Facebook does not have a lot to lose. As Miller puts it, “Mostly, this was an experimental side project for the team that turned out to be really fun.”