Facebook (A)Live? Are live social broadcasts really broadcasts?
The era of live-broadcast is back but with two major changes. First, unlike traditional TV broadcasts, content is now streamed over the Internet enabling it to reach a wider audience. Second, due to various user-generated content platforms it has become possible for anyone to get involved, streaming their own content to the world. This emerging trend of going live usually happens via social platforms, where users perform live social broadcasts predominantly from their mobile devices, allowing their friends (and the general public) to engage with the stream in real-time. With the growing popularity of such platforms, the burden on the current Internet infrastructure is therefore expected to multiply. With this in mind, we explore one such prominent platform - Facebook Live. We gather 3TB of data, representing one month of global activity and explore the characteristics of live social broadcast. From this, we derive simple yet effective principles which can decrease the network burden. We then dissect global and hyper-local properties of the video while on-air, by capturing the geography of the broadcasters or the users who produce the video and the viewers or the users who interact with it. Finally, we study the social engagement while the video is live and distinguish the key aspects when the same video goes on-demand. A common theme throughout the paper is that, despite its name, many attributes of Facebook Live deviate from both the concepts of live and broadcast.