Initially available only on desktop and Android devices (although an iOS update is promised in the coming months), the new video feature means that viewers will be able to choose what angle they view the content from.
To create the videos, brands such as Go Pro and publishers like Vice use a special set of cameras to record all 360 degrees of a scene simultaneously. The Facebook update means that viewers will be able to view any angle by dragging across the video with their cursor on desktop or with their finger on mobile.
Users can even turn their mobile phone to scan across the scene or hold it up to the sky or down to the ground to see that view.
“Our goal at Facebook is to connect you with the people and things that matter, every single day. Over time, we’ve seen that people enjoy more immersive content in their news feeds. This is one reason video has been so successful on Facebook, and we’re excited to take it a step further with 360 video,” says Facebook in a blog post.
The benefits for brands are clear. They will not be able to create immersive content and provide a new layer of interactivity for consumers.
It follows the launch of 360 videos on YouTube, as Facebook looks to ensure it keeps up with its video rival.
Video is increasingly important to Facebook, both in terms of keeping people on the site and boosting ad revenue. Earlier this year Facebook started sharing ad revenues with video producers. Its video views in the first quarter of 2015 grew to 315 billion, although that is still less than half the views on YouTube.
And according to new research from eMarketer, Facebook’s ad revenue will grow by 41.8% this year to $16.29bn, faster than the overall social media market and giving it 64.8% share in 2015.
The research firm estimates that Facebook earns $48.76 in ad revenue for every US user, although that drops to $7.71 outside the US.