With Facebook continuing to push its Watch Party and group communal video viewing options, it comes as little surprise to see that Instagram is testing a similar function within its app.
As spotted by reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong, Instagram is experimenting with a new option which would enable users to view on-platform video content with a friend, while also seeing their reactions on screen via the phone camera.
Instagram is testing AR Effects and Co-Watching in Video Calls— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) April 17, 2019
(hands-on demo) pic.twitter.com/y1OV80zVtg
As you can see, the option would start with a split-screen view, where you can apply face filters and other visual tools to your personal camera feed. You can then choose Instagram videos to watch together, with the added interactive elements of being able to see and hear your co-viewer in a minimized window.
Multi-participatory consumption has become a key trend of focus for social media platforms. Back in 2016, multi-user streaming app Houseparty took off, quickly becoming a key platform for virtually hanging out, particularly among younger user groups.
"The use case that caught our attention was people just hanging out on live, particularly young people. After school, they jump on a livestream and hang out. That use of live [video] is particularly interesting to us."
Indeed, parent company Facebook was most certainly interested. Keen to avoid missing out on another key trend, following the rise of Snapchat, Facebook created its own group live-streaming app, called Bonfire, which was launched in certain markets, but has thus far not seen broader adoption. Watch Party is The Social Network's most successful offering on this front - since launching Watch Parties in groups last July, Facebook says that it's facilitated more than 12 million Watch Parties within Groups alone, while Watch Parties also garner 8x more comments than regular videos in Groups.
That makes sense, watching videos with friends is a more social activity - similar to watching live-streams, having people there, reacting in real-time, prompts more users to do the same. So it could also make sense in Instagram.
At present, the option appears to only support two concurrent viewers, which aligns with the functionality of Instagram Live. That could be somewhat restrictive, but then again, previous research has shown that 85% of the messages shared on Instagram are distributed to the same three friends, highlighting a desire for more intimate communication on the platform.
It's an interesting consideration - thus far, Instagram has not commented on the potential addition, but given it's in the back-end, it could be made available sometime soon.