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A single linear stream that everyone watches at the same time? How retro. Live events are the epitome of traditional oldteevee fare. But while flipping between the many feeds of Barack Obama’s inauguration today, I found the best experience was offered by CNN Live with Facebook Connect integrated, making the livestream experience social in a relevant way. And I really think it points toward the future of TV.
Sure, the Flash upgrade installation process to run the actual CNN video was a chafe, but after the rigamarole, I loved feeling like I was in a room of friends watching the events. And not a room of friends who necessarily know each other — people from all different parts of my life were streaming into a feed of comments customized for me.
Compared to the general public commentary provided by Current with Twitter integration, Joost with Meebo (though the chatroom was full when I tried to get in), and Ustream with Ustream chat, CNN plus Facebook was so much more personal and interesting to me. OK, so it was the same “I’m so moved” and “yay Obama” comments as everywhere else — but they were from people I knew.
The one problem I had with the CNN/Facebook integration was that the live stream and comments were not synced up particularly well. Especially as the morning went on, it became particularly evident that people were still talking about Aretha while I was onto Feinstein, or quoting from Obama’s address before it had even started for me. But I can forgive a few things breaking down under such an unprecedented load. This is TV getting interactive in a massive way.
CNN is reporting 13.9 million streams by 11:45 a.m., up from a previous live-streaming high of 5.3 million streams on election day. Facebook tells us 600,000 status updates were posted to the CNN.com Live Facebook feed by 12:30 p.m. (around the time Obama’s speech was ending). During the minute Obama began his speech, there were 8,500 status updates. OK, so status updates with threaded comments aren’t the pinnacle of technology — but managing that many of them is!
Though many people reported problems with various feeds, CNN was the most stable and highest quality I found (I only had to refresh once). Hulu and MSNBC were also stable and high quality (as opposed to ABC, for instance, which I couldn’t even get to load once), but they weren’t social.
Events like the Obama inauguration don’t happen every day, but they push forward the way we see the world in more ways than one. For a different take, check out Stacey’s post about throwing in the towel on online coverage.