Until recently, Twitch could do no wrong. The streaming service, born out of Justin.tv to cater to the burgeoning gaming and e-sports industries, grew quickly, raised lots of capital and subsumed its parent, and was tipped to be headed for a $1 billion exit to Google.
Recently the company announced changes to its VOD service and instituted an audio recognition service that mutes stored video content when it detects third-party music. The company’s moves were impactful and poorly announced. Users, faced with drastic changes to how the service has operated before, are displeased.
Twitch CEO Emmett Shear‘s AMA session on Reddit that took place earlier today was something akin to a rout.
To understand the virulent user antipathy, let’s examine what the policy changes that the company instituted. Users will no longer have the ability to save their broadcasts forever. Instead, users will be able to store broadcasts for 14 or 60 days, depending on their Twitch user status. Highlights, limited to two hours, will be up for long-term archiving.
In three weeks, Twitch announced, the company will start to remove past broadcasts from its servers. So all the content that its users have created and saved on its servers is up for deletion. Users can make highlights of them — up to two hours in length, of course — or export them. Twitch is no longer a safe harbor for past content.
The idea has not proven popular.
The company’s choice does make some sense. It extended the automatic saving period for broadcasts from four days to at least 14, increasing its storage needs. It has to have room for that content, so older, less popular material is a reasonable place to cull. Twitch’s CEO noted in a Reddit comment that the two-hour rule is under review following complaint.
Twitch also announced that it had rolled out audio detection software to scan stored video content — both past and to come — for music that belongs to third parties. If the service detects music — which includes in-game music, for what it’s worth — that it recognizes, the VOD in question will have a 30-minute block muted.
The company knew in advance that the system would not function properly:
Please note that Audio Recognition is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate. It may return false positives or miss content from copyright owners who do not work with Audible Magic.
It did. The new service muted the official VODs from the recent Dota 2 International tournament. Valve, publisher of Dota 2, recorded the material.
Twitch explained its reasoning in its Reddit session, saying that it wants “every broadcaster on Twitch to be protected from potential liability. No matter how remote you might feel the issue is, [the company isn’t] willing to run the risk someone’s life gets ruined over this.”
Is Twitch prepping for an acquisition? Cleaning its house ahead of new capital? Merely sick of swimming in a sea of aging content that exposes it to potential legal action? Take your pick, but it’s certainly true that the company messed up its messaging.
Twitch appears to now understand that. A question from Reddit:
Why was no advanced notice given before these policy changes were implemented? (Specifically, Justin.tv shutdown and Audible Magic muting)
The response from the Twitch CEO:
Simply put: we screwed up and should have announced it ahead of time. Sorry.
For a company that is supposed to be worth nearly 10 figures, that’s a pretty stark statement. Twitch didn’t think to alert its growing community that it was going to delete all their stored content, end a key plank of its platform (long-term broadcast storage), and that its policies on music were changing from laissez-faire to draconian in one shot.
The company has promised a new blog post with “updates on changes [Twitch] is making.” Stay tuned.