In a move to distinguish itself from Facebook, Google+ has officially opened the doors to a new streaming video feature that lets its users publish themselves. Hangouts On Air is ready for the world.
The Google+ Hangouts On Air debuted when the social network was in its infancy to a limited audience. Essentially, it makes Google+ Hangouts -- a feature that lets you hold a video chat with up to nine people -- into a live publishing platform.
Google+ Hangouts On Air lets you tap into a larger audience -- or view other broadcasters. Put another way, it's a public broadcasting mechanism that taps into some of the technology Google acquired when it purchased YouTube.
The YouTube Connection
Chee Chew, an engineering director at Google, introduced Google+ Hangouts On Air to the Google Official Blog reading audience in a post that outlined its functions.
"Last year we introduced Hangouts On Air to a limited number of broadcasters, enabling them to go live with friends and fans, for all the world to see," he wrote on Monday morning. "Since then, this small community has grown the feature in lots of creative ways. And they've made one thing crystal clear: when groups of passionate individuals can broadcast live, together, the results are truly remarkable."
Google+ Hangouts On Air lets you broadcast publicly. By checking "Enable Hangouts On Air," you can broadcast your live Hangout from the Google+ stream onto your YouTube channel or on your Web site. During your broadcast, you can also see how many live viewers you've got.
"Once you're off the air, we'll upload a public recording to your YouTube channel, and to your original Google+ post," Chew wrote. "This way it's easy to share and discuss your broadcast after it's over."
Look Out, Ustream
We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his views on the evolution of Google+ Hangouts. He told us Google+ Hangouts has always been the big differentiating feature -- other than Circles -- from Facebook.
"The new broadcast capability will make it even more popular and should lead to some very innovative and interesting uses of the technology for content distribution and marketing," Sterling said. "It will likely become a very powerful medium for broadcast of live events in the immediate future."
Market research consistently shows that Americans are spending an increasing number of hours watching live video. With Google+ Hangouts, Google is tapping into that vein, and competing with the likes of Ustream.tv, Livestream and Justin.tv. Ustream leads the live-streaming video revolution.
The latest comScore research shows that Ustream leads the live-streaming video revolution. But with YouTube's 143.2 million-member user base, it's not difficult to see how the Google-owned site could quickly outpace smaller competitors. And with Google+ Hangouts On Air added into the mix, Google could give other services a run for its money and simultaneously draw new users to its fledgling social network.