The social destination for a significant part of the connected world is missing a critical feature in the world of 360-degree content.
Not a day goes by right now where I don't see a new 360-degree virtual reality video on Facebook. They show up in my browser on AutoPlay like every other Facebook video, but the increased animation and text invites you to participate in the video experience by either clicking and dragging the video with your mouse or moving around with your phone to see the whole video. Whether it's flying as a co-pilot with the Blue Angels or some kids running around in a park, these videos are capturing the attention of users all over the world. Check out the comments section of any VR video on Facebook and you'll see a handful of people who have never seen anything like this before. It's fantastic, and there's no denying that people want more.
With the implementation these videos clearly being such a huge success, why hasn't Facebook stepped up to the plate with matching VR photo publishing?
Whether you're packing a Ricoh Theta S, the new LG 360 CAM, or you have a healthy obsession with taking Photospheres or VR Photos through Google's camera apps, you know that taking VR photos is a lot of fun. Taking that 360-degree photo has gotten a lot easier over the last year, but sharing those photos hasn't really changed. Google supports these VR photos natively in Google Photos, and if you've taken a great photo of a special place you can share it with Google Maps to be included in their Street View service, but there aren't a ton of other options for sharing these photos with people who aren't right next to you.
Support from Facebook is a big deal.
Facebook has demonstrated a desire to work with this new form of video, and received quite the response in the process. But if you try to upload a VR photo to Facebook you'll get a rectangle with your sphere stretched and contorted to fit. It's not a pretty picture, and there's not a ton you can do about it.
While it's not a huge shock that Facebook didn't jump at the opportunity to support Google's Photospheres, the ability to publish directly to Facebook from Ricoh and LG for video means there's been some support offered to these third-party hardware options. Facebook's video stitching and compression systems are unique to Facebook, so it stands to reason that a lot of the same work could be applied to photos, right?
Support from Facebook is a big deal. It's a guaranteed way to increase the adoption rate of just about any platform, and with existing video content coming from every corner of the internet — including adult entertainment and live sporting events — it's clear the concept of VR video is catching on. Facebook brings parts of this video to everyone with a web browser or smartphone, and the addition of photo support will give more users the ability to publish their own 360° experiences.