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Facebook Live was launched in August of 2015 with a clever campaign that made the platform available only to celebrities. This of course gave the app a lot of attention as Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope were gaining traction. And by December of the same year, Facebook decided it was time to let more people in on the fun.
However, there is a big but! The Facebook Livestreaming app is only available to a limited group of iPhone owners. Although Facebook still hasn’t announced the availability of a Live app for Android based devices, you can use the Facebook Mentions app to stream live video if you don’t happen to own an iPhone.
Its the first major hurricane of the Facebook era.
People in the path of Hurricane Matthew in Florida are using mobile live-streaming to show pounding rain, swaying trees, downed power lines and flooded roads -- sometimes for tens of thousands of viewers.
The Category 3 storm packed winds of more than 100 mph as it lashed Floridas Atlantic coast, causing Walt Disney World to shut down.
Conditions are so dangerous that authorities have urged or ordered people to evacuate some areas. But those who decided to ride out the storm are using their phones to document it for the world.
Some of the streams that CNNMoney spotted Friday morning came from Facebook users in Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Cocoa Beach and Coral Springs.
The videos, which are archived online after a live broadcast ends, last anywhere from 30 seconds to more than an hour and a half.
Most of the shorter streams have only a handful of people watching, but longer videos, like one from storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski, have attracted more than 92,000.
A spokeswoman for Facebook said the company doesnt know exactly how many people have been sharing live video, but it has set up a dedicated channel for Hurricane Matthew live-streams.
LIVE on #Facebook: Live Cape Canaveral FL. #flwx #matthew https://t.co/o07zTg9mzQ
— Jeff Piotrowski (@Jeff_Piotrowski) October 7, 2016
Related: Disney closes theme parks as Hurricane Matthew approaches
Facebook is a mobile video streaming platform acquired by Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) last year.
Along with the now-defunct Meerkat, the app helped make live-streaming accessible to anyone with a phone. Users can start a public or private broadcast, and viewers can send comments as they watch.
Facebook (FB, Tech30) launched its own version, Facebook Live, earlier this year and has been making a huge push to get people to "go live" and watch live videos.
As more people started using the tool -- to document mundane parts of their day or wacky costume purchases -- they also unexpectedly helped capture crimes, causing headaches for the big tech companies.
Despite the growing pains, Twitter and Facebook have built convincing platforms for small broadcasters who want a bigger audience. Local TV stations suddenly have the power to distribute their coverage to a wide international audience with the press of a button.
In the case of Hurricane Matthew, several Florida stations, including WPEC in West Palm Beach and WSVN in Miami, have been using Facebook and Facebook Live to broadcast their coverage online. One WPEC livestream has had over 700,000 viewers.
Related: Related: Hurricane Matthew may be one of most expensive storms in U.S. history
As Matthew pounded the state on Friday, several tech companies launched disaster relief tools and services to help people still in the storms path, people who have had to evacuate and travelers who are stuck.
Airbnb activated its Disaster Response Tool to arrange free emergency lodging for displaced people. Google (GOOGL, Tech30) turned on its Crisis Map, which lays out the storms path and publishes public announcements. And Facebook switched on its Safety Check feature.
CNNMoney (New York)
First published October 7, 2016: 12:54 PM ETfacelive,Facebook Live Profile