Google+ Hangouts users can now watch live streams from YouTube together, and YouTube wants to improve this integration in the near future by featuring live streams both within Hangouts and on its own website. This could add an interesting real-time social component to live webcasts.


YouTube is closely integrating Google’s Hangouts group video chat platform with its live streaming in an effort to make video watching more social. The site has already quietly begun to make live video feeds available to Hangouts users, and it will eventually add tools to improve discovery of live streams both within Hangouts and on YouTube.com, I was told by YouTube Live Product Manager Brandon Badger this week.

Hangouts has been joined at the hip with YouTube ever since the chat platform launched as part of Google+ at the end of June. Hangouts users can launch YouTube videos from within the group video chat, and up to ten participants can watch the same video simultaneously.

So far, only recorded videos have been featured within Hangouts, but Badger is going to officially reveal at Vidcon in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon that users can easily watch live streams together as well (check out a step-by-step guide in the box on the right if you want to try this yourself).

The current method of manually searching for live video feeds is somewhat cumbersome, but YouTube is actively working on a much closer integration. Soon, it will feature ongoing live streams within the YouTube tab of Hangouts. The next step after that will be to directly integrate Hangouts into YouTube pages for live streams. “We would show you some of the available public Hangouts,” Badger told me during a phone conversation, adding that these Hangouts would be featured right next to a live stream.

A final component will be personalization: Imagine you’re going to watch a soccer game live on YouTube.com, and you can immediately see which of your friends have joined up in a Hangout to watch the same game. Badger couldn’t give me any timeline for the integration of these features, but he assured me, “It’s something we’ve been working on.”

Live-streaming providers have long experimented with audience participation, and a number of platforms now offer integration of Facebook and Twitter live feeds during events that are broadcasted live online. In the past YouTube has experimented with this as well, and Badger said live streams regularly provoke more commenting than prerecorded YouTube videos.

The face-to-face interaction of Hangouts takes this type of interaction one step further. Users are able to talk to one another in real time while watching a sports game, a concert or a newscast, much as if they were sitting on the couch together. The limited nature of Hangouts — only ten users can chat with one another at a given time — also adds a sense of intimacy that’s lacking from a Twitter or Facebook feed.

However, the ten-person limit has also been a point of contention, especially around popular Hangouts. Some users have already taken matters into their own hands to circumvent the limit. When musician Daria Musk had her first Hangouts concert two weeks ago, users simply daisy-chained multiple Hangouts to allow more than ten people to join in on the fun.

Musk’s second concert was streamed live on Hangoutparty.com, a site that has since been offering live screencasts of other Hangouts as well. Badger didn’t have any specifics to share about similar options offered by YouTube itself, but he said his team is certainly aware of the phenomenon: “We have definitely seen lot of demand to live stream Hangouts.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user kevindooley

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  1. Lucian Armasu Saturday, July 30, 2011

    That is unbelievably awesome! Up next: Hulu integration with Hangouts (once they buy it). Also Youtube Movies in Hangouts. I just hope they make them a little cheaper, most of them are like $4 now. That seems much higher than the competition. Bad deals with the studios?
    Or imagine a Hangout between some politicians, and people being able to watch them live on Youtube, and send them questions. Google should also integrate the “Google Moderate” technology into this, so the most voted questions can rise to the top. Or they can just use +1’s for this. There are a lot of possibilities.

  2. Broadcast video with text chat is already available with YouTube. It looks like the only thing missing is video chat. It takes a lot of bandwidth to view dozens of little videos all at once though. Maybe they should have unlimited text chat, and then 10 people at a time in the video thumbnails at the bottom, and one big one?

  3. Cool! I’m now looking forward to being able to share a “How To” YouTube video with others that demo’s the process, so that others can get a better idea of how the process works and the benefits it brings to the service(s). The process described here is over the head of lots of people.

  4. Google embraces … Google!

  5. Michel Wester Saturday, July 30, 2011

    It’s maybe nice to add that you can also find live streams in the hangout by searching for the title of the live stream. In that case you don’t have to hassle with the ID in the URL. I tried it with the stream from FashionTV. I searched in the hangout for “Europe FashionTV – Direct!” and I got the live stream in the results.

  6. guitarhangout Saturday, July 30, 2011

    Now we look forward to vice versa integration: ability to stream hangout session on youtube.com. Then there would be no necessity to work-around 10 person limitation on for example guitar seminars like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65gUEiQOWL0

  7. Wahyu Primadi Sunday, July 31, 2011

    numpang tidur ajah lah |-)

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