New camera features in Facebook phone app

SAN FRANCISCO • Facebook is giving the camera a central place on its smartphone app for the first time, encouraging users to take more pictures and edit them with digital stickers that show the influence of rival Snapchat.

With an update scheduled to take effect next Tuesday, Facebook will allow users to get to the app's camera with one swipe, and then add visual details like a rainbow or a beard of glitter.

Users will be able to share a picture privately with a friend, rather than to all of their friends, and add a picture to a gallery known as a "story", similar to Snapchat.

Snapchat popularised the sharing of digitally decorated photographs on social media, and exposed a weakness of Facebook as the companies battle for eyeballs and leisure time.

Snap has recently emphasised its ambitions to build gadgets and has called itself a camera company rather than a social media network. Some analysts have warned that Snap is susceptible to competition from Facebook.

Facebook, which with 1.86 billion users is the industry leader, denies it took its camera ideas from Snapchat and says it got them from its own users. "Our goal here is to give people more to do on Facebook, and that's really been the main inspiration," said Mr Connor Hayes, a Facebook product manager.

In a glimpse of how the features could tie in with other businesses, one of the first camera effects will be the ability to morph someone in a photo into a yellow, cartoon "Minion". The latest Minion movie, Despicable Me 3, is due to be released in a few months from Comcast's NBC Universal.

Facebook has deals to license content from six film studios, as well as from two artists, said design director Kristen Spilman.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline 'New camera features in Facebook phone app'. Print Edition | Subscribe