Last week Yahoo! launched Y! Live, a new website/service which lets you easily use a webcam to put live video on the web.
Acccording to the service's blog, Y! Live was created to:
...make it possible for anyone to create their own live video experience. Broadcast the concert you’re at. Webcast your own live DJ set. Lifecast. Build your own live video speed dating application. We’ve created a website and an API that lets you do all these things and many more...."People who tried to use Y! Live when it first became available reported the expected launch glitches, and the service crashed to a fiery death with a relatively small number of users. However, this weekend Y! Live seemed to be working just fine. I didn't try to put any video up yet, but hope to play with it sometime today or tomorrow. We will definitely try using it a bit during the NEW NET (Northeast Wisconsin Network for Economy and Technology issues) meeting on 12 February 2008. If it seems to work well there, we also try using it at the FDLLUG (Fond du Lac Linux Users Group) meeting on 13 February 2008, where the topic for the evening will be Encryption, with a guest session leader from Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
The Yahoo! Developer Network blog gave a great example of how this new service can be used in this election year. Someone at an Obama rally in Seattle used a laptop webcam via a cell phone connection to the 'net to broadcast the video of the rally with Y! Live. My guess is that we'll have lots more live video feeds from election events using Y! Live or the other free live video websites.
Speaking of other free live video websites, various posts about the Y! Live launch also listed competitive services for the NEW NET gang to evaluate. The primary competitors listed were Ustream.tv, Justin.tv, Stickam, Flixwagon, Mogulus.com, Qik.com and Blogtv.com. And although it's not strictly a streaming webcam video service, another web service to throw into the mix for NEW NET meetings is oovoo. I haven't used these various services enough yet to be able to say which works best for me, but six months from now I hope to have enough hours experience with each of them to tell you my recommendations.
Using a slightly different approach, especially to have more control and to utilize open source software directly, Ryan H at NEWLUG (Northeast Wisconsin Linux Users Group) may be broadcasting their meetings to the web if he can find a willing Linux server to host the video stream.
Although there are many videocasts of highly questionable quality on these live video websites, it is definitely worthwhile trying out some of these services periodically as the services mature, technology advances and web speeds increase. These live video services have gotten to the point where they can be useful for communication and collaboration even if they're not the same as being face to face.
Let's hope the Y! Live site listens to its users and continues to improve. Yahoo!'s Flickr site is one of the better digital photograph sites on the web, so it would be great if they could successfully integrate a video site with their still photo site. With a large company like Yahoo! getting behind this service, and rumors circulating about Microsoft buying Ustream.tv, can it be long until Google feels the need to provide a similar service to its fans?
There's no doubt in my mind that some of the smart, hard-working Google geeks are using one or more of the above live video services. If Google doesn't already have a Gvideo service in use at its headquarters, it soon will...