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Instagram’s new streaming feature looks a lot like Zoom

March 1, 2021, 7:08 PM UTC

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Instagram is adding new capabilities to its livestreaming service, and the result is something that looks oddly familiar. 

The social network, owned by Facebook, on Monday introduced Live Rooms, a feature that lets users join up to three other speakers for a live public broadcast up to four hours long. Viewers will see a Zoom-like split screen of the speakers, along with a comment feed at the bottom. Previously, Instagram only let users publicly livestream with one other speaker. 

Live Rooms also lets viewers buy badges, a feature Instagram introduced to Live last year that gives users a special status that unlocks extra features during broadcasts. Instagram also said it’s working on other tools, including moderator controls and audio features that will be available in the “coming months.”

The news comes after an explosive year of growth for videoconferencing company Zoom. Following the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom became the go-to communication tool for many companies that had switched to remote work. Since then, a number of competitors have released Zoom-like video features, including Facebook, which premiered Messenger Rooms. Meanwhile, Google made its videoconferencing service, Meet, free for Gmail users. 

Facebook has a history of copying other companies. For example, Instagram Stories, introduced in 2016, was a clone of Snapchat’s ephemeral short videos. And Instagram Reels, which debuted last year, was a copycat of TikTok, the social media app that catapulted in popularity from its early days hosting teen dance challenges. Most recently, Facebook reportedly began working on a rival to Clubhouse, a buzzy new audio chat app. 

Still, Instagram Live Rooms comes with some big differences from Zoom. The free version of Zoom can handle up to 100 users simultaneously for 40 minutes at a time. Meanwhile, Instagram Live Rooms lets users broadcast to the public rather than providing space for a meeting with a limited group of people.

Instagram said it’s merely doubling down on Live, which, since the pandemic, has become popular for hosting rap battles, informational talks about COVID-19 guidelines, and cooking classes. The new features are intended to enhance creativity by encouraging musical jam sessions, Q&As, and friendly hangouts. 

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