The inventions of the smartphone, high-speed wireless internet, and social media have allowed live streaming to flourish. Right now, you can be sure that millions of people are watching or creating live streams on their phones or laptops. And content varies wildly, from beauty tips and current affairs to long plays of ancient retro video games.
Live content is a massive part of today’s internet, but who are the trendsetters in this all-important field? Let’s find out which platforms are driving live streaming forward.
Twitch – Revolutionizing Online Media
In the world of live streaming, one name stands out: Twitch. Owned by the retail giant Amazon, Twitch attracts hundreds of millions of unique views every month, broadcasting a mind-boggling 46 billion minutes of content and hosting over 3 million broadcasters.
The range of content available on Twitch is vast. Originally, the platform was mainly used by gamers, and that’s still a huge chunk of the site’s traffic. At any moment, you can guarantee thousands of broadcasters are streaming their gameplay. And Twitch is also the broadcaster of choice for most professional gaming tournaments.
But it’s not all about gaming. Twitch also hosts “real life” content, with categories devoted to hobbies and crafts, cookery, beauty and body art, fashion, science and technology, sports and fitness, and “just chatting” – where streamers engage with their audience.
What makes Twitch unique? Aside from the breadth of content providers, the app is a major asset, allowing users to stream via XBox consoles, smartphones, and many other devices. Users can also interact via social network-style features such as direct messages (DMs) and Pulse – which is essentially Twitch’s equivalent of a Facebook timeline.
However, things haven’t always been smooth sailing for Twitch. For example, the streaming platform has been banned in China since September 2018 – a sign of how subversive live streaming can be.
YouTube: Catching Up In The Livestreaming Stakes?
When Twitch rose to prominence, many people thought that it would be at the expense of YouTube. But that’s not exactly been the case. YouTube remains a massively popular platform for recorded video content, and its developers have been hard at work adding live streaming capabilities to match what Twitch has to offer.
YouTube Gaming shows how successful this strategy has been. In 2017, the live gaming section of YouTube grew its audience by a massive 343% (compared to Twitch which grew 197% in the same period).
However, this doesn’t mean that YouTube is about to catch up with Twitch. YouTube averages around 7,000 streamers at peak times, compared with 27,000 for Twitch, so there’s quite a gap between them.
Nonetheless, YouTube has cemented itself a place as one of the biggest live streaming players, and many prominent vloggers have embraced the chance to connect in real-time with their audiences. From current affairs sites to live gaming streams, and from music festivals to soccer matches, live broadcasting is now a huge component of what YouTube has to offer.
Periscope: Twitter’s Answer To YouTube And Twitch?
Given its huge user base and emphasis on real-time developments, Twitter seems to be the perfect match for live streaming. That’s why the social network invested in Periscope in 2015, but have the results panned out as Twitter hoped?
There’s no doubt that Periscope is a powerful streaming tool, and it’s especially useful for people who want to stream from Android or iOS phones to their Twitter followers. But take-up hasn’t been as extensive as might have been expected a couple of years ago.
As Mashable reported in early 2018, Periscope has lost many prominent streamers to other platforms, while Twitter doesn’t seem to invest much time or money in developing the platform.
But that doesn’t mean Periscope is on its way out. If you log onto the site you’ll still find many skilled streamers who create slick, informative, entertaining content. It’s just that you’ll also encounter poorly moderated comments boards and plenty of juvenile content as well.
Facebook Live: Taking The Social Network To Another Level?
Facebook’s embrace of live streaming was as predictable as Twitter, so nobody was surprised when Facebook Live was announced in August 2016. Since then, the live streaming section has been a hit with users. And it’s also become an essential marketing tool for hundreds of thousands of businesses large and small.
The front end is clearly laid out, with sections devoted to science and technology, humor, sports, food, entertainment, and news – as you’d expect from a major streaming platform. And the choice of content is impressive, with as many as 4 billion broadcasts being made since the service launched.
However, if you’ve followed tech news since 2016, you’ll know that Facebook’s foray into live streaming hasn’t been without controversy. For instance, Facebook Live became famous for users posting violent videos, and the social network has had to constantly refine the way it filters content.
But as the user numbers suggest, Facebook Live is here to stay and popular. And it’s a great tool for staying in touch with friends and family.
What About Smaller Live Streaming Services?
So far, we’ve talked about streaming giants: Twitch, Facebook Live, Periscope, and YouTube. But these major players aren’t alone.
Vimeo is another well-known platform, which specializes in offering high definition, quality content. It’s popular with professional film-makers, artists, and photographers, as well as major brands who need high-end presentation.
Then there are Chinese streaming sites. Twitch may be banned in the People’s Republic, but streaming isn’t. Far from it, actually. Meipai serves a vast audience of fashion and beauty fans, Chinese celebrities rely on Weibo’s Yizhibo app, while Tmall is focused on business streaming. Although westerners don’t necessarily appreciate it, China’s live streaming market could be the biggest of all.
As we’ve seen, live streaming is a global phenomenon. Embraced by every major social network, it’s a core component of marketing plans in almost all business sectors. And as technology develops, it’s becoming more popular and immersive than ever. So watch this space. There are sure to be more live streaming surprises in the near future.
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