Saturday, August 18, 2007

Round-up of DIY live video streaming services

The lowly webcam has been enjoying something of a renaissance of late, aided by increased broadband penetration, improved streaming codecs, more kit being bundled with webcam functionality (e.g. mobile phones, laptops) and a mushrooming start-up economy, hungry for the next big web thing.

Justin Kan, founder and 'star' of Justin.tv, must also take a share of the blame/credit. Launched in March of this year, the 24/7 'lifecast' streams continuous video from a mobile camera attached to Justin's cap and has attracted a significant amount of media attention. Whilst the concept isn't new (anyone remember JenniCam?) the services which have sprung up enabling you to easily do it yourself are. Below is a round-up of a few of the main players.

Stickam
http://www.stickam.com
Launched: February 2006



First out of the blocks (and actually predating Justin.tv by over a year) was Stickam, which bills itself as 'The Live Community' and offers a suite of tools including live video streaming via an embeddable player. Stickam recently hit the headlines over allegations that its parent company, Advanced Video Communications, also runs a substantial online porn operation, which hasn't been viewed by everyone as a particularly good fit with Stickam's predominantly teen user base. The teen user base also helps explain the site's scrappy, MySpace aesthetic and general incomprehensibility to an old geezer like me. Definitely one for the kids.

Ratings: N
Tags: N
Comments: N
Live chat: Y
Viewer count: N
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: N

Design: 2 stars
Navigation: 2 stars
Features: 2 stars
Overall: 2 stars

Ustream.tv
http://ustream.tv
Launched: March 2007



Ustream.tv was the first of the new generation lifecast sites to appear post-Justin.tv, reportedly bringing its launch date forward to capitalise on the surrounding publicity. The interface is pretty slick with a decent chat client and some nice extras such as a 'shout meter' and live polls, set by the broadcaster. It's also possible to pause the stream, which is cached until you resume playing.

Ratings: Y
Tags: Y
Comments: Y
Live chat: Y
Viewer count: Y
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: Y

Design: 4 stars
Navigation: 4 stars
Features: 5 stars
Overall: 4 stars

kyte
http://www.kyte.tv
Launched: April 2007



Like Stickam, kyte is something of a hybrid service of which live video streaming is just a part. Also in the mix are photos, music and polls which can all be packaged up within your embeddable 'channel.' However, kyte's key market differentiator is its mobile component which, assuming you've got a compatible handset and a sufficiently meaty data allowance, enables you to broadcast direct from your handset.

Ratings: N
Tags: N
Comments: N
Live chat: Y
Viewer count: Y
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: Y

Design: 4 stars
Navigation: 3 stars
Features: 3 stars
Overall: 3 stars

Operator11
http://operator11.com
Launched: April 2007



Operator11's USP is letting more than one person into 'the studio' allowing the operator/director/net jockey controlling the video stream to cut back and forth between various contributor feeds. It's an interesting development of the single camera model which potentially moves the medium nearer to broadcast TV, although it also serves as a reminder that successfully editing video on the fly is a great deal harder than it looks.

Ratings: Y
Tags: Y
Comments: Y
Live chat: Y
Viewer count: Y
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: Y

Design: 4 stars
Navigation: 4 stars
Features: 4 stars
Overall: 4 stars

blogTV
http://www.blogtv.com
Launched: May 2007



blogTV isn't short on functionality but suffers from a somewhat cluttered interface when viewed alongside the cleaner designs of Ustream and Mogulus. It's 7,500 channels are grouped into nine categories with 'My Life' predictably being the most populated. One nice feature for producers is the ability to pick a co-host whose video stream appears alongside your own with viewers able to interchange the two using a slider.

Ratings: Y
Tags: Y
Comments: Y
Live chat: Y
Viewer count: Y
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: Y

Design: 3 stars
Navigation: 3 stars
Features: 5 stars
Overall: 4 stars

Mogulus
http://www.mogulus.com
Launched: June 2007



Currently in closed beta, Mogulus focuses more on the production side of live video, offering a fully featured browser-based 'studio' (requires Flash 9) to finesse your broadcast. In contrast, the viewing experience is pretty basic, eschewing chat, comments, ratings and the like in favour of a more classically televisual interface (on/off, mute, volume and, er, that's it). It even goes so far as to mimic static as the channel 'tunes in'. It's certainly the least cluttered of the sites discussed here and should provide a good platform for them to gradually introduce more functionality. I've got five beta invites to giveaway - mail me if you want one.

Ratings: N
Tags: N
Comments: N
Live chat: N
Viewer count: Y
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: N

Design: 5 stars
Navigation: 4 stars
Features: 2 stars
Overall: 4 stars

Veodia
http://www.veodia.com
Launched: April 2007



Veodia is a distributed live streaming product for embedding in blogs and corporate sites and doesn't aggregate any content on its site beyond a couple of sample videos. Unlike most of the alternatives (which use Flash) it streams using MPEG-4/H.264. As a consequence the embedded video lacks any social media features such as comments or chat.

Ratings: N
Tags: N
Comments: N
Live chat: N
Viewer count: N
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: Y

Design: 2 stars
Navigation: 2 stars
Features: 1 star
Overall: 2 stars

YouCams
http://www.youcams.com
Launched: Unknown



Like Veodia, YouCams' focus is on distributed live video (via an embeddable widget) rather than aggregation, although it positions itself as a facilitator of social networking chat rather than as a provider of streaming technology.

Ratings: N
Tags: N
Comments: N
Live chat: Y
Viewer count: Y
Embedding: Y
Recorded shows: N

Design: 2 stars
Navigation: 2 stars
Features: 2 stars
Overall: 2 stars

mystreams.tv
http://mystreams.tv
Launched: Unknown



The ugly sister of the live video streaming family, mystreams.tv is a UX disaster, plastered in large banner ads and forever opening new windows. Avoid.

Ratings: N
Tags: N
Comments: N
Live chat: Y
Viewer count: N
Embedding: N
Recorded shows: N

Design: 1 star
Navigation: 1 star
Features: 1 star
Overall: 1 star

Whilst it's ultimately a matter of horses for courses when it comes to choosing a live video streaming service, my personal vote would be with Ustream.tv with Mogulus the one to watch.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You are on serious crack. You run a Mickey Mouse blog and your biased rating system proves it.

Mark said...

> It's certainly the least cluttered
> of the sites discussed here
Whoever says that about Mogulus can't be taken seriously. It's full of buttons and dials and ThingsYouDontKnowWhatToDoWith™

It takes so much time to get started that takes all the fun away.

My bet is on ustream for 24/7 streams (like my fishtank cam :)) and on operator11 to use with my friends and do quality stuff

andy said...
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