Storytelling helps people build meaningful bonds: we all have stories to share with our friends, our communities, and the world at large. Speech, sound, and language are the building blocks for how we connect with each other. That’s why good audio experiences can feel immersive and intimate at the same time. They make you feel like you’re right there in the room with your friends and family, sitting around at the dining table, even if you’re miles apart. Audio seamlessly fits within our busy lives, allows us to be inspired by new ideas, and talk with other like-minded people without pressure. You can share your personal story or join in on a global conversation in any way, anytime, anywhere — even on a bad hair day without any makeup — or in your car or on a run!
At Facebook, we’ve seen the continuing rise of audio on our platforms, from audio calls to audio messages on WhatsApp and Messenger. We’re working to make audio messages easier to record, and more fun — including the ability for people to send familiar sound clips to their friends that range from sound effects like crickets chirping to quotes from popular songs. But we know there are more social experiences to create to help people say what they want to say, discover new voices they haven’t heard before, or exchange ideas at the speed of sound.
Right now, it’s still too difficult for most people to do any of this. The best audio creation tools are reserved for the pros. It’s still too hard to discover and share awesome audio content, and too cumbersome to assemble the right group of people to have a conversation about your favorite topic, at the right time. At Facebook, we’ve invested in the full spectrum of audio technologies to solve these problems. From audio quality enhancements, captions, speech translations, and superhuman hearing, our goal is to make audio presence easy, natural, and immersive so you can more fully experience social presence.
Whether it’s an in-depth conversation or your passing thoughts, we are building audio tools and formats that connect people with the things they care about.
The first thing we’re building is a set of new audio creation tools. Just like we did for photos and videos, we want everyone to have tools that are powerful enough for the pros, but intuitive and fun — like having a sound studio in your pocket. We’ve been investing in audio technologies — such as speech-to-text and voice morphing — for a long time and will make them available in an audio creation tool directly inside the Facebook app. Through our advances in AI, we can make audio quality magically great — even if you record on a busy street corner. You will be able to use music from Facebook’s Sound Collection in the background of your story to set the tone. And with the ability to mix audio tracks, a growing collection of sound effects, voice effects and filters, it should be a lot of fun too.
These audio creation tools will enable you to create Soundbites — short-form, creative audio clips for capturing anecdotes, jokes, moments of inspiration, poems, and many other things we haven’t yet imagined. We’ll start testing Soundbites over the next few months with a small number of creators and refine the product with their input before making it available to everyone. To start, we’re collaborating with creators to experiment with different concepts. Imagine, comedian Drew Lynch, sharing his short rants and food reviews in ASMR; Lolo Spencer, an accessibility advocate, reciting daily affirmations and her favorite inspirational quotes; Tobe Nwigwe, a visionary and entrepreneur, sharing his “convos with Tobe” about fatherhood and being a first-generation Nigerian American; Molly Burke, a motivational speaker who is blind, recording empowering stories about overcoming adversity; and Josh Sundquist, an author and comedian, using voice effects to augment his impersonations and storytelling. The possibilities are endless and we can’t wait to hear their Soundbites.
While we’re big believers in the power of short-form audio, we also know that some stories and conversations deserve more airtime. More than 170 million people are already connected to hundreds of thousands of podcast pages on Facebook, and more than 35 million people are members of fan groups around podcasts — but until now, you had to leave the Facebook app to listen to these episodes. Within the next few months, you’ll be able to listen to podcasts directly on the Facebook app — both while using the app or when the app is backgrounded. And because it’s still hard to discover podcasts you like, we will help you easily find new podcasts and episodes based on your interests, comment on them and recommend them to your friends. And podcast creators will be able to reach and connect with new listeners — all directly within the Facebook app.
We’re also going to start testing Live Audio Rooms and we expect it to be available to everyone on the Facebook app by the summer. We believe that audio is a perfect way for communities to engage around topics they care about. We’ll test Live Audio Rooms in Groups, making it available to the 1.8 billion people using Groups every month and the tens of millions of active communities on Facebook. Whether it’s Filipino Cooking Group, run by a former cooking reality TV show contestant; the World Wanderlust Bucket List group, filled with travelers looking for the road less traveled; or OctoNation® – The Largest Octopus Fan Club of 47,000 cephalopod enthusiasts, we hope that unlocking audio will be as inspiring and fun as Groups already are. As part of this initial rollout — and because we know communities aren’t built just in Groups — we’ll also bring Live Audio Rooms to public figures so they can host conversations with other public figures, experts and fans. We’re making live audio both accessible and discoverable so that public figures like American football quarterback Russell Wilson, Grammy-nominated electronic music artist TOKiMONSTA, artist and director Elle Moxley, and five-time Olympic medalist and entrepreneur Nastia Liukin, and can share ideas with new audiences and create a forum for discussion, without the added pressure of being on camera. In addition to bringing this to Facebook, we also plan to release Live Audio Rooms on Messenger this summer so you can easily hang out with your friends, too.
We think a lot of magic happens at the intersection of audio formats, as well as at the confluence of text, audio, and video. For example, with live audio, creators will be able to turn a live conversation into a podcast for everyone to listen to later. We also want to give creators and fans tools to share the best excerpts from a live audio or podcast and publish them as Soundbites to encourage more discussion. Additionally, we’re going to offer captions on all these audio experiences to make them accessible to all. And if you have the sound off or prefer to follow along with text, you will be able to access this universe of content on your terms. Similarly, if you’re on the go, we will also make it easy to listen to most videos in the background. Over time, all these different formats will live in a central listening destination on Facebook where people can find new things and new people to listen to.
The only way this all works long term is if creators can make money from their efforts. So at launch, we’re introducing multiple ways for audio creators to build their business while pursuing their passion.
When Live Audio Rooms launch, fans will be able to support their favorite creators and public figures through Stars, or donate to causes they care about. Soon after launch, we’ll also offer other monetization models, like the ability to charge for access to a Live Audio Room through a single purchase or a subscription. Finally, to kickstart Soundbites, we’re introducing an Audio Creator Fund to support emerging audio creators and get early feedback on the new product experience.
We’ve seen time and again just how much creative energy is liberated when you build powerful creation and editing tools, make them free and easy to use, and — with appropriate safety and privacy safeguards — put them out into the world. By bringing the magic to new audio formats, we’re giving people a new way to say more of what they’ve always wanted to say, this whole time.
P.S. If you’d like to actually hear what we’re talking about, put on your headphones and play this: