Dear Facebook: If You Want To Beat Twitter In Streaming, Support Stereo Audio

With more people live streaming on mobile platforms than ever, Twitter and Facebook are trying to cash in. In the last month we’ve seen each company unveil a slew of features in hopes of becoming the go-to mobile streaming platform. Twitter unveiled 360 video support, where Facebook took a stab at radio by unveiling Live Audio. And CES 2017, happening this week in Las Vegas, could be a defining moment as both attendees and media are forced to choose one service over the other for live coverage at the show.

These apps exist to tell stories, our stories. If they can’t share scent, touch, or taste, then they better do the best job at sharing our sights and sounds in their highest quality. Live Streaming is POV by nature, you the viewers are expected to be transformed into the head of the streamer and both hear and see from their perspective. Both of these apps do a fine job of visually conveying the world to its viewers, however one (Facebook) seems to think we hear the world with one ear instead of two. And even more unsettling is that they assume we don’t care if our concert videos sound like crap (when most of them floating around on Facebook unfortunately do). It’s completely unacceptable, and unfortunately it’s persistent across all of Facebook’s products. There is a reason that you have two ears instead of one, so that you hear better and take in the sounds around you better. So why don’t our favorite apps do the same thing and utilize stereo audio instead of just using mono? When we basically live in these applications, they should do the best job that they can to deliver us the highest quality of their application.

Despite the recent feature rollouts in the race to own live streaming, there’s one widely overlooked space where Twitter is clearly winning: audio quality.

How are they doing it? Well to be honest, they’re the only ones even trying.

Currently, Twitter is the only option that supports multichannel, high quality audio for live streaming video. So while Facebook encourages users to capture and share real time, POV content that immerses audiences in another place, none of their platforms support the capturing or publishing of multi-channel high quality audio to go with it. In other words, Facebook compresses even the highest of multichannel audio into garble-y mono upon upload. A simple comparison of streaming on Facebook Live vs. Twitter’s Periscope is all it takes reveal the difference:

Notice how you can actually localize audio on the left and right when listening to the periscope cast?

Across Facebook’s entire portfolio which includes Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Android and iOS apps, Mentions and Messenger, NONE of them support stereo audio. The only way you can share a stereo audio file through one of Facebook’s products is by uploading it via desktop and using the Facebook website. And even then, the audio is incredibly compressed to an unlistenable degree because it has to be compressed to be able to run on the website. Hear the difference for yourself:

Notice the digital compression sound on the Facebook video. The YouTube upload is much cleaner.

Facebook has been around for years now and has the highest amount of users at it’s fingertips, so in reality, it should be catering to it’s consumers needs. It is the giant tech companies like Facebook and Twitter’s responsibility to provide us, the consumer with the best tools to tell our stories. As long as Facebook converts everything to mono, how are we to know it can be better? However, as headphone sales continue to rise and iPhones now come with stereo speakers, more people are noticing the difference and demanding more, and a better quality of experience. There are many creators sharing incredible stories with high quality audio, but Facebook is limiting them from truly connecting with their audiences, which is hurting everyone. That ends now.

It’s clear that these companies are looking for any opportunity to gain an edge over their competition, and once the video features have gone as far as they can, audio will be next in line to help one company rise above the other. In that regard, there’s no denying Periscope’s audio dominance leaves Twitter poised to take the lead, and a recent decision by tech pub The Verge to exclusively use Periscope for their CES Live Coverage could be an early confirmation of just that. Either way, the next few days will be pivotal in the live streaming arms race and we say, watch your back Facebook because Twitter is already winning. We will just have to see what happens and who will take the lead in providing for its consumers.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Audio Founder and CEO


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