In an attempt to rival Twitter-owned Periscope, Facebook lets mobile users broadcast live videos. Now, more than a year after introducing Facebook Live, all users can now go live from a computer.

With this functionality, Facebook is going after desktop-aimed streaming sites, such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming. Desktop streamers can broadcast from their webcam and use external hardware or streaming software, just like they can from Twitch. That means you aren't limited to one type of stream, as you can broadcast your face or things like gameplay footage and picture-in-picture videos.

Here's everything you need to know about Facebook Live, including how to broadcast from a mobile phone or desktop.

What is Facebook Live?

Facebook Live is a feature found on Facebook's website and in the Facebook mobile apps. With this feature, you can start a live video, and your friends and followers can watch and engage with the broadcast in real time. This feature debuted in 2015 and has slowly expanded to more platforms, with the most recent update bringing desktop users into the fold.

How do you go live on Facebook?

iPhone

  • Launch your Facebook for iOS app
  • Tap "What's on your mind?" at the top of your news feed
    Tap [video recorder icon] Live Video
  • Write an optional description for your broadcast
  • Tap Go Live to begin your broadcast
  • Tap Finish when you want to end your broadcast

Android

  • Launch your Facebook for Android app
  • Tap "What's on your mind?" at the top of your news feed
  • Tap Go Live
  • Write an optional description for your broadcast
  • Tap Go Live to begin your broadcast
  • Tap Finish when you want to end your broadcast

Desktop

  • Go to Facebook.com using the Google Chrome web browser
  • Click "What's on your mind?" at the top of your News Feed
  • Click Live Video
  • Write something about your live video
  • Select the audience for your live video
  • Click Next
  • Click Go Live

External hardware and streaming software

You can go live with external hardware and even streaming software like OBS, Wirecast, or XSplit, making it easy for publishers to switch between cameras, stream PC gameplay, make how-to guides, and incorporate on-screen graphics, titles, and overlays. Facebook said you can go live directly from News Feed, your profile, or this direct link here. Here's a step-by-step guide.

How does Facebook Live work?

Filters

To add a filter to your live video, go to the iOS or Android app to start your live broadcast, then tap the wand icon and scroll to view all filter options. You can tap any filter to select it. You'll also see the ability to draw or doodle on videos while live.

Reactions

Facebook offers Live Reactions in live videos to make it "easy for your viewers to express their feelings in real time during a live broadcast."

Live Reactions features the same reactions that Facebook launched for posts in the news feed. So, you can select Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, or Angry, and then you can see those reactions animate on top of the broadcast. Live Reactions appear and disappear in real time, and when your friend reacts to your video or to a video you are both watching, you will see their profile pic and a starburst before their reaction appears.

This feature really reminds of us Periscope, as that broadcasting app lets you double tap your phone screen in order to send love/hearts (a heart will appear next to your avatar) to a broadcaster in real-time.

Comments

Similar to Periscope, Facebook Live lets you engage with broadcasters using real-time comments. Facebook said it noticed people comment 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos. It also wants people watching the broadcast after the fact to still feel as though they're watching in the moment, so it'll replays comments as they happened during the broadcast for people watching later. 

Is there a time limit for a live videos?

The time limit for a live video on Facebook is four hours.

How do you find live videos on Facebook?

You will see live videos from your friends and people you follow appear in your news feed, and you may even get a notification when a friend or people you follow start broadcasting (depending on your notification preferences). When you're watching a live video or a video that was live, you can click Subscribe to be notified the next time that account broadcasts. You can also find live videos on the Facebook Live Map.

How do you manage notifications?

Enable or disable notifications

  • Click in the top right and select Settings
  • Select Notifications on the left
  • Click On Facebook
  • Scroll down to Live Videos to make changes to live video notifications

Want to know more?

Check out Facebook's tips and tricks guide for more handy information.