This morning, Google officially rolled out Google+ Hangouts On Air to all users worldwide, following the feature’s limited introduction back in September. At the time of its initial release, this live broadcasting feature allowed top Google+ users (like celebs) to stream live video feeds directly to their Google+ fan base. The service kicked off with a Google+ Hangouts stream from will.i.am, but soon saw a number of notable participants, even including the President of the United States, Barack Obama, at one point.
The worldwide rollout of Hangouts On Air, announced today via the official Google Blog, represents an interesting shift for the feature, which before was more about public figures and other types of broadcasters, like news orgs, reaching a large audience of viewers via the social platform. Now, anyone can be a live broadcaster. It’s the same promise made by services like Ustream, Livestream, and and Justin.tv, for example. It’s now also the promise of Google’s own livestreaming property, YouTube.com/live – a property which just opened up to all. Well, all who have a Google+ account, that is.
According to the Google blog post, users can broadcast their live hangout to their Google+ stream…but also to their YouTube channel or their website. It’s those last two items, and primarily the option to broadcast live to YouTube as well as Google+, that makes the general availability of Hangouts on Air so interesting.
Today, YouTube.com/live’s help documentation says that the service is still not broadly available to all of YouTube’s video creators:
We’re slowly rolling out live streaming to our partners with accounts in good standing over time. You can check to see whether live streaming is already enabled on your account by logging in and visiting your Channel page. Look for a promotional message at the top.
Plus, in April, when YouTube Live was celebrating its first anniversary, YouTube’s partner product manager Varun Talwar noted that, while the team had developed new features like pay-per-view and real-time analytics for its broadcasters “with the expectation many more of you will eventually use YouTube Live” (hint, hint?), he also said that, unfortunately, “this process takes time to roll out broadly.”
Well, forget waiting, because it appears that live YouTube streaming is here…for anyone with a Google+ account. Clever, Google. Very clever.
Per the Google+ Hangouts on Air documentation, using Hangouts On Air means you also get to broadcast live on YouTube. It reads:
Broadcast a hangout: Invite circles or individual people to join you in a hangout, then broadcast it to the world. A live player of your hangout will be posted to your Google+ Home page and YouTube channel.
The change is an important one for Google’s growth. Today, Google+ adoption appears to be less organic, and comes from the large number of integrations with other Google properties. Google, too, has been slightly vague with regards to its Google+ numbers, refusing to detail the number of visitors who hit up the plus.google.com directly. Instead, it talks of its “170 million+ users,” with “100 million 30-day actives,” but has so far refused to define “active,” or detail how many are “upgrading to Google+” outside of Google+ proper.
That being said, no one can argue YouTube’s numbers. Its audience of hundreds of millions upload 60 hours of video per minute to the service. And now they can all be live broadcasters, too, via the Google+ funnel? Any guess on how long it will be before we see another announcement regarding Google+’s amazing jump in user numbers?
We’ve reached out to Google to confirm all its Help documentation is correct and current (you never know). We’ll update if need be, if/when Google confirms.
Update: Google wants to point out that, basically, Hangouts are the social counterpart to YouTube Live. Says a company spokesperson:
“Hangouts On Air uses a combination of Google+ and YouTube Live to let you engage with even more people, while YouTube Live focuses more on broadcasting an event to your audience. For example, you’d watch your favorite band play on YouTube Live, but then engage with them backstage in a Hangout On Air.”