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YouTube goes live!

Today, YouTube began a two-day trial of its new live streaming platform, which offers a glimpse at the future of live broadcasting via the Internet.

(To see some of the live broadcasts, click on the above image and select one of the listed shows.)

Up until now, YouTube has been a fairly static medium: contributors film a few minutes of footage, upload it to YouTube, and there it sits, gathering a number of “views” or remaining largely ignored except by friends and family. Now, the new platform will offer the ability to stream video live across various YouTube channels; all broadcasters will need is a webcam or an external USB-linked camera.

The four initial partners in the trial are Howcast, Next New Networks, Rocketboom and Young Hollywood. Included in the test will be a “Live Comments” module, which will allow the YouTube community to engage directly with the presenters – and each other – as the broadcast takes place. Based on the results of the initial test, YouTube will roll-out the platform to additional partners around the world.

Although nothing has been attempted on this scale, there have been live broadcasts on YouTube before, including a U2 concert, cricket matches in India, and President Obama’s first State of the Union address. Just last week, YouTube carried a live stream of the press conference that introduced Google’s new search tool Google Instant.

However, YouTube relied on third-parties to enable all the previous live webcasts; instead, the current experiment is using YouTube’s own in-house technology. If all goes well, it promises to herald a new era of Internet-based entertainment, with more rock concerts, sporting events, and other celebrity appearances likely to drive the initial adoption.

Web-tracking company comScore recently announced that the time U.S. audiences spent watching live video online increased by over 600% in just the past year, and millions logged over the summer to watch the live streaming of soccer’s World Cup.

Although there is existing competition for live streaming, the close involvement of YouTube’s vocal community is likely to be one of the difference-makers. “Any time you can bring your viewers into a broadcast – like making a shout-out to someone who left a comment – the audience really gets excited about that,” said Rocketboom producer Leah D’Emilio. “It breaks down any kind of wall between the people on camera and the people who are watching.”

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