Facebook introduces Watch Party to let you watch shows together with friends

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Facebook today began testing Watch Party, a new feature available to groups that lets members watch videos at the same time while continuing to comment and interact. Any public Facebook video can be included in a Watch Party, whether it’s live or prerecorded. The goal is to make watching videos a fun, social experience rather than a passive one, the company said.

“As we think about video on Facebook, we’re focused on creating experiences that bring people closer together and inspire human connection instead of passive consumption,” said Fidji Simo, vice president of product at Facebook, in a blog post.

To start a Watch Party, group moderators select one or more videos and post it inside the group. (For now, you can’t schedule it in advance.) When a party is taking place, members will see a Watch Party widget on the group page. As soon as you join, you’ll see the same video everyone else is watching.

Members can look at the queue of videos to see what’s coming up next. If you’re watching the video on a mobile device, group members’ comments appear overlaid on the video. If you’re watching on the desktop, they appear in a rail on the right side of the video.

Facebook says it built Watch Party because it found live videos encourage more social interactions than pre-recorded ones. Turning pre-recorded videos into live events could help people enjoy them more, it says. The news comes a week after Facebook announced it would make significant changes to the News Feed, in part to reduce the amount of low-quality video served to its users.

Watch parties are not a new idea. The XBOX 360 had a “party mode” that let users talk to their XBOX friends while watching Netflix together. The mode was killed off with a firmware update in 2011, drawing howls of protest from fans and occasional petitions seeking to get it reinstated.

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