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Facebook revamps its app and puts live video front and center

A selfie stick, being used on documenting the 29th Kawasaki Awaodori Dance Festival at an audience seat near the Kawasaki Station.
Jiangang Wang | Getty Images
A selfie stick, being used on documenting the 29th Kawasaki Awaodori Dance Festival at an audience seat near the Kawasaki Station.

Mark Zuckerberg has decided he really, really likes live video. So he's paying celebrities and media companies to make live video, and he's tweaked Facebook so that it's more likely to show you live video.

Now he has reworked his app to make it easier to watch and make live video.

Remember how there used to be a Messenger button at the bottom of your screen, which showed up when Facebook was jump-starting its messaging service?

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Guess what's going to replace it? A live video button.

Click on it, and you'll see a menu of live video. You can scroll through real-time broadcasts from around the world, as well as the ones your friends are making.

It's one of several new Live features that are launching today, and rolling out to iOS and Android in the next few weeks. Here are some more:

  • Once you're in the live video library, you can choose topics you want to follow (e.g. cooking or science). Facebook can then alert you when users broadcast live video about your favorite topics.
  • You can now stream within private groups. So if you only want to broadcast to your family, for example, you can set those parameters.
  • Viewers of live broadcasts can invite others on Facebook to come watch the same video. If you're invited to watch a video, you receive a push notification.
  • When users react to a video with a heart or smiley face, those reactions will now float across the screen. If you've seen the floating hearts on Periscope, Twitter's livestreaming service, this will feel very similar. (More on that below.)
  • You can add a video filter to your broadcast.
  • There's a live video map that shows you where in the world people are broadcasting from.

One thing to keep in mind: All of these new features are less about how much users want live video and more about how much Facebook wants live video.

Facebook product manager Fidji Simo, who oversees the company's video efforts, won't say how many people are watching or creating live video, but she says there's "a lot of traction."

And there should be traction, since Facebook is telling people — both implicitly and explicitly — that they should be making and watching live video. We've seen this before — most recently when Facebook pushed autoplay video into people's feeds, then announced that lots of people were watching autoplay video.

You can bet the folks at Twitter's Periscope are paying close attention to Facebook's update. Periscope already offers a lot of these features, including the live map and floating reactions.

Last month, Periscope boss Kayvon Beykpour told Re/code that Facebook's sudden interest in livestreaming didn't faze him. But it should.

By Kurt Wagner, Re/code.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Re/code's parent Revere Digital, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.