Live streaming technology has come a long way in a short period of time. From its humble beginnings as a way to broadcast live events, it has evolved into a multi-faceted tool that is used for everything from entertainment to e-commerce. This article will take a look at the history of live-streaming technology, from its early days to the present, and examine the key technological leaps and innovations that have made it what it is today.
Live streaming: It’s everywhere!
Live streaming is often taken for granted by those who grew up amidst smart devices. But for those who have witnessed how live streaming technology evolved from its humble beginnings to its present-day multi-faceted applications, the progress of innovation is nothing short of spectacular.
Live streaming applications include e-commerce, virtual events, entertainment, sports, politics, education/training, gaming, and social media. A real-time webcast or live streaming as we know it today is made possible by the internet, a product of increased bandwidth and accelerated software and hardware development.
The internet currently impacts how we share and interact with information. Live streaming is now possible through many platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and the like—a far cry from one-on-one videoconferencing that was already considered state-of-the-art back in the day. It also holds the viewer's attention 20 times longer than on-demand videos.
Types of live streaming
Live streaming transmits real-time video, whether broadcast to a single entity or a multitude as it is being recorded. Some live streaming is "watch only," while others allow you to interact. When it is recorded, it can be viewed later, but it no longer classifies as live streaming—strictly speaking, it is more accurately described as a broadcast in asynchronous mode.
- Interactive streaming
Interactive streaming is prevalent in social media and the education and training sector, where it is essential to get a reply. Basic web conferencing has free versions like Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet.
- Social media
The viewer or customer engagement is boosted through live streaming over Instagram Live, Facebook Live, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, and Viber. With greater functionality, there are paid versions like GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have proprietary ones.
Participating is the operative word in interactive streaming because the audience can react or influence through chat, polls, or quizzes. The importance of live streaming is its value in replacing face-to-face interaction. It is necessary to keep it exciting and relevant because viewers can get easily distracted or bored.
Live streaming on e-commerce allows merchants to show off products like in the brick-and-mortar world. However, there are differences. With live streaming on e-commerce, the stage is more extensive with a multiplier potential. For instance, people can tune in to flash sales, especially for holiday shopping. New products or arrivals can be highlighted, and prepayments accepted for orders. If the audience likes the products, you can even get a boost with "shares."
Livestreamed e-commerce creates anticipation because you can offer bonuses, gifts, and upsells in real time. As the host, you can keep them engaged—a factor essential for marketers.
- Live casinos
Even casinos have live streaming technology, taking it to interesting heights, allowing interactive betting interfaces to work with live HD video feeds. Games shows like the popular Crazy Time have elaborate sets where a host will spin a wheel whilst players wager on winning combinations - all during a live broadcast.
It is one of the pleasures that has quickly adapted to the web. Online casinos have features that traditional casinos need, like cryptocurrency betting, choosing your odds, and website-created games. Some sites are also licensed for sports betting.
With online casinos, you might miss the thrill and energy of a physical casino. On the other hand, live streaming offers convenience and privacy whether or not you choose to play with an actual person on an HD cam. A game like Crazy Time is like a Spin-A-Win machine on steroids with a live game show host, multipliers, and bonuses made possible by the live streaming from Riga!
Live streaming: Past to present
During the last quarter of 2022, live streaming chalked up 7.2 billion hours of watched time, including entertainment, online gambling, and gaming content. But it was not always video and sound content that was streamed. And when it was, the quality was inferior to what we enjoy today.
The earliest form of "live streaming" was audio broadcast in real time through analog devices. The iconic Elvis Presley went live via satellite from Graceland in his "Aloha From Hawaii Concert" on January 14, 1973. Filmed for later distribution by MGM, this was the first concert by a significant artist that was broadcast worldwide.
With the introduction of the internet, live concerts became common and didn't have to feature big stars or be produced by major studios. Albeit with a crude output compared to present times, Severe Tire Damage, a group of computer technologists from Xerox, was the first band to livestream from the internet.
The video was streamed from the Computer Science Lab at Xerox PARC on June 24, 1993, using the Mbone (multicast backbone) network. Beamed from the US, it even reached Australia. At this time, the World Wide Web (WWW) had been open to the public for less than three years, and bandwidth was very limited.
Though the band was proud of its broadcast, the video quality had much to be desired. Streaming it consumed half the bandwidth even when the resolution was poor at just 100 lines and the video lagged. The video wasn't smooth because it was just at 4 frames per second (fps), a fraction of the current standard of 24 fps (mobile) - 30 fps. Note that this was when VHS and CRT TV sets were very popular.
The Rolling Stones followed suit after a year, and on its heels, a baseball game between the New Yankees and the Seattle Mariners went live in 1995 courtesy of RealNetworks. Back then, it was still challenging to monetize this type of broadcast.
Adobe introduced Flash Player, which facilitated viewing livestream and multimedia content. However, it was vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and Adobe stopped support on Dec. 31, 2020.
This was an exciting time because digital cameras capable of storing information were being developed. Broadcast cameras released by Canon became more compact and handier.
Eventually, the smartphone, from pioneering Nokia to Apple with its iPhone series and Samsung with its Galaxy series, made live streaming possible for even non-professional users. The innovation continues to this day.
RealVideo, capable of commercializing live streams, was launched.
US President Bill Clinton was to be included and, in 1999, was the first President to stream live in a Town Hall in the Third Way Politics in the Information Age webcast. Produced by Excite@Home Network, it was live and interactive, with questions from over 50,000 chat participants.
Fast forward to 2008, YouTube, then barely three years old, broadcast its first live event simultaneously from San Francisco and Tokyo. YouTube Live was a series that featured Katy Perry, Will.i.am, U2, and famous YouTube personalities. At this time, streaming live from YouTube was yet to be commonly done, and one wonders why YouTube, the mammoth that edged out Yahoo Video, needed to be faster in mainstreaming live broadcasts. It was 11 years after the Clinton Townhall episode did another US President, Barack Obama, went live.
Apple released HTTP live streaming (HLS) protocol, which is supported on web browsers, streaming platforms, and others.
Elsewhere, Justin. Tv and Twitch, its offshoot, made their platform available to non-celebrities going live with mundane activities. This empowered content providers to go live with whatever is interesting (or not absorbing) about their lives. Just how popular is Twitch? Twitch, very popular among online gamers, surpasses the viewership of CNN and MSNBC. Millions follow its popular channels.
YouTube liberalized its policy and opened live streaming to any registered user. This marks the early days of influencers who would make history earning through streamed content that was independently and not studio-produced.
Twitter offers live streaming.
Facebook and Instagram offer live streaming.
- 2021 to the present
2021 saw a significant rise in the popularity of streaming apps like YouTube TV, Hulu, and Pluto—on top of live streaming in social media apps like Snapshot, Facebook, and YouTube.
Though Samsung and Apple still hold supremacy, other smartphone brands can be used for livestreaming with decent output.
Technology and tools for livestreaming
It was not just the form and content of live streaming that changed over the years. The growing sophistication of streamed content reflected changes in technology. Live video streaming that is clear but small enough to stream smoothly without latency is made possible by several factors, which had changed over the years:
To livestream, you need a device to capture the video, such as a camera or smartphone, and a connection to the internet. In the past, the signal used was still analog. Nowadays, practically all cameras are digital and typically capture large high-resolution files.
The purpose of the encoder is to decrease the file size so the video can be streamed on the streaming platforms. YouTube Live and other platforms use a combination of technologies, such as video encoding and decoding, real-time transport protocols, and content delivery networks to enable live streaming. Some platforms may also use adaptive bitrate technology to ensure smooth streaming, even with varying internet speeds.
The encoding used for live streaming depends on the platform and the type of video being streamed. For example, YouTube Live supports several video codecs, such as H.264 and VP9, while Twitch uses the H.264 codec. The video must be encoded in a format compatible with the platform and can be played in real-time on viewers' devices.
Some platforms also use adaptive bitrate technology, which adjusts the video quality based on the viewer's internet connection speed. In general, H.264 is a widely used codec for live streaming due to its balance of video quality and compression efficiency.
The bigger bandwidth and the faster the internet, the more engaged users will be. With the sheer number of choices, audiences need more patience to sit through a slow video. The shift from dial-up modems to smartphones with 3G, 4G, 5G, and LTE connectivity has boosted market demand for streaming content.
Analysis of the importance of live streaming
Live streaming has come a long way since its inception. In the early days, live streaming was limited to broadcasting events in real time through dedicated platforms, such as Justin. Tv. The technology was also limited to high-end equipment and required a high-speed internet connection.
Over time, technological advancements have made live streaming more accessible and affordable. The rise of smartphones with high-quality cameras and fast internet connectivity has enabled anyone to broadcast live. This has led to an explosion of live streaming platforms, including Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Twitch.
In recent years, the popularity of e-sports and gaming has driven further innovation in live streaming. Platforms like Twitch have introduced new features, such as interactive chat rooms, virtual goods, and subscriptions, making live streaming a social experience for viewers.
Future of live streaming and its impact on industries
Live streaming is essential for several reasons:
- Real-time engagement: Livestreaming allows content creators and businesses to connect with their audiences in real time. This creates a sense of immediacy and allows for live interaction between the broadcaster and viewers, making the experience more personal and engaging.
- Increased reach: Livestreaming enables content to be broadcast to a global audience, expanding the reach and visibility of the content.
- Cost-effective: Livestreaming eliminates the need for expensive equipment and production costs associated with traditional video production.
- Versatility: Live streaming can be used for various purposes, including events, product demonstrations, tutorials, marketing, and more. Video games streamed for multiple users remain a considerable chunk of the burgeoning market for live content alongside online casinos, entertainment, and sports content.
- Accessibility: The rise of smartphones and high-speed internet has made live streaming more accessible and affordable than ever.
The evolution of live streaming has made it a powerful tool for communication, online gaming, online gambling, entertainment, and commerce, opening up new opportunities for content creators, businesses, and individuals to engage with their audiences in real time.
Live streaming technology has come a long way in a short period of time, and its evolution is far from over. From its early days as a way to broadcast live events, it has evolved into a multi-faceted tool that is used for everything from entertainment to e-commerce. The future of live streaming technology looks bright, and we can expect to see it continue to change and shape the way we consume and interact with content in the years to come.