YouTube Finally Launches Live Streaming Portal to Select Partners

Things keep changing at YouTube and today the site announced the launch of YouTube Live, a portal to highlight the live video streams of trusted user accounts. “The goal is to provide thousands of partners with the capability to live stream from their channels in the months ahead,” the company said today. “In order to ensure a great live stream viewing experience, we’ll roll this offering out incrementally over time.”

It’s not a surprise to see YouTube go live, it’s just a surprise to see it happen so soon. We’ve spoken with participants who have been testing the program for months and we’d heard that it wasn’t going to launch for some time. We’ve also heard that the technology and user experience for publishers is excellent.

While the news caught us by surprise, it’s also been long expected. YouTube co-founder Steve Chen told video blogger Sarah Austin three years ago last month that live streaming was coming to the site imminently.

“2008. We’ll do it this year,” Chen said at the time. “Live video is just something that we’ve always wanted to do, we’ve never had the resources to do it correctly, but now with Google, we hope to actually do it this year.”

Regardless of the long wait, YouTube is better positioned to do live streaming today than it was then; users are better equipped with bandwidth to consume it and the interviewer that got the scoop three years ago, Sarah Austin, has stuck with it and is now one of the launch partners of the new feature.

Can live streaming video go big like recorded video has? In some ways it’s a different animal; it requires different skills and a different disposition. In some cases though, live is sure to be a killer feature and YouTube is a great place to do it.

If a record 5.3 million people watched UStream live from the rescue of the Chilean miners, how many people do you think might watch YouTube Live from the streets of Egypt or Libya? That’s still a long, long way off – but today’s announcement makes me inclined to imagine.

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