Facebook launches Stories globally with new camera filters, effects, and more

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If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. That seems to be Facebook’s method these days, more or less. Last year, it launched Facebook Live, a streaming video feature “inspired” by apps like Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat, and it recently added a Snapchat Stories-like feature to Instagram. Now, it’s bringing Stories to the News Feed.

Facebook Stories, which rolls out globally today, lets you contribute to a 24-hour timeline of topical photos and videos, each of which can be individually liked, commented on, and shared. You can post the collection directly to your news feed, or send it to a friend via a private message. You can see who’s viewed it since it’s been up, and when friends post stories, they’ll be ranked based on your relationship with them — the closer you are, the more visible they’ll be.

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Stories boasts new camera options, too. You can select from hundreds of different filter and effects — new filters use augmented reality to insert text and doodles into the background, facial recognition technology overlays masks on top of subjects, and Prisma-like art filters transform your media into abstract art. And in the coming weeks, Facebook Stories will gain support for voice transformation — you’ll see filters for high-pitch voice, a different accent, and more.

Not all effects are available worldwide. Instead, Facebook is tailoring the selection to individual markets. Masks around the Latin American celebration of Carnival will be seen by users in Brazil, for example, but not in the U.S. Facebook told VentureBeat that it has created custom effects for nine specific markets, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

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Facebook is also partnering with brands to promote concerts, events, and movies. It has teamed up with movie studies like Disney and 20th Century Fox to promote Alien: Covenant, Despicable Me 3, Power Rangers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and Wonder Woman.

Despite the robustness of Facebook Stories, it isn’t without its limitations. You can’t save Stories for offline viewing, and content can’t be posted across Facebook properties. And unlike Instagram Stories, you can’t tag friends or apply locations.

But Facebook Stories will see constant tweaks and improvements going forward, product manager Connor Hayes told VentureBeat.

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“[Stories is] in response to what people do most often on Facebook: Share photos and videos with friends. We’re giving people the best format to do that on Facebook,” Hayes said. “The main thing is flexibility … One thing we learned when talking to people [is that] they need more flexibility when sharing on Facebook. Direct will be good for private moments, while Stories will be good for everything else.”

Stories launch today in the Facebook app for Android and iOS.

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