Back in March, Facebook announced that it had purchased MSQRD, a video altering tool which enables uses to wear elaborate video 'masks' to change their appearance.
The tool works in pretty much the same way as Snapchat's popular 'Lenses' tool, using facial recognition to virtually attach the mask to your face within your video.
At the time, speculation was that Facebook would quickly release MSQRD masks in an effort to curb Snapchat use, but thus far those integrations have been limited - Facebook made MSQRD masks available in Facebook Live broadcasts in July, but you had to access them through the MSQRD app, they weren't included within Facebook itself. Facebook also run a trial with users in Canada and Brazil which enabled them to use selected masks in Facebook proper during the Olympics.
And now, Facebook's ready to take the next step with their MSQRD masks, announcing a new set of Halloween-themed options that will be made available within Facebook Live for all users in the US, UK and New Zealand, with other regions to follow. Here's how you use them.
As noted by Facebook:
"We have a number of festive masks for Halloween, including a skull, an evil queen and two limited-edition masks: a pumpkin and a witch. A selection of masks will continue to be available after Halloween, so you can be creative in your Live videos any time."
It's a good move by Facebook. As we noted recently, one of the key reasons that Snapchat will remain competitive with Facebook and Instagram is that it has unique features, like Lenses and Geofilters, which, thus far, Facebook hasn't been able to replicate. MSQRD is obviously Facebook's answer on this front - some have even said that MSQRD's masks are actually better than those available through Snapchat. If that's true, and people feel compelled to try them out and tell their friends about them, that could be a big win for Facebook in their battle for attention with Snapchat.
When you combine this with the additional new image-altering options Facebook showcased this week at WSJD Live, which can turn your videos into stylistic works of art in real-time, you can see how The Social Network may be on a fast track to stealing some of Snapchat's thunder, and bringing more people back to their platform with improved visual features.
The next most obvious stage would be to integrate video masks into Instagram Stories, but we'll have to wait and see if that's the path Facebook chooses.
In addition to MSQRD masks, Facebook's also launching a set of custom Halloween Reactions to mark the event.
Custom reactions are an interesting one. While stats show that Reactions are still not seeing widespread use (common 'Likes' still account for more than 92% of responses), the adoption of Reactions is increasing over time, rising some 22% in overall usage rates since May this year. Adding in custom options - which Facebook has previously done to mark Mother's Day and the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek - provides the platform with another way to raise awareness of Reactions and, potentially, in future, an additional revenue opportunity.
Imagine if a film promoter, for example, could build a custom set of Reactions to mark a movie launch.
The new Reactions will be made available to all users for a limited time around Halloween.