YouTube embraces Google+ Hangouts for live streaming


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, 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, 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, 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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