In 1960 seventy million people watched Kennedy and Nixon engage in the first Presidential debate ever broadcast live on TV.
And not a single viewer could post a comment.
These days things are different. Tonight, far fewer people probably watched the Current.tv and Twitter collaborative broadcast of Obama v. McCain - but scores of them participated, 140 characters at a time. It worked very well. You can get some idea from the 1 minute of video embedded below.
The commentary from viewers was some times pointless and at other times impressively insightful. It was democratic - or at least for those of us who happened to find out about the Current.tv live stream. I didn't know where to watch the debate until I went looking five minutes before it started. I searched Twitter and found out about this broadcast. I'm glad I did.
Was it on par with the first live televised Presidential debate? It may not have been, but we're less able to be awestruck today than we were in 1960. John McCain, incidentally, was 24 years old and just out of flight school at the time. He must have felt the impact of TV full force. Obama, incidentally, was conceived a month later.
While many websites streamed live video, the Current/Twitter broadcast certainly wasn't watched by as many people as the first televised Presidential debate. But new these new media are expected to ripple out over the world just as far at television has.
Was tonight's live online video plus Twitter coverage of the debates a meaningful game changer? Participate in our poll to share your opinion.
The technology worked well. Tweets were repeated and browsers had to be refreshed (Kulabyte, the most effective live streaming service we've seen yet, apparently was not used) but it was a very engaging experience. It was a debate unlike any other in the history of the world. It was much better than watching it on TV.
It was a little anti-climactic and it was effective. That's a good place for technology to be these days. We won't feel the same watching talking heads banter without viewer commentary ever again.