As mentioned on the Official Google Blog earlier today, the Google+ development team is pushing Hangouts On Air live to all Google+ members over the next few weeks. Prior to this point, Hangouts On Air was limited to influential Google+ users like celebrities, organizations or politicians. Launching worldwide, any Google+ member can start streaming and recording live broadcasts which can be published to a YouTube channel after the streaming event comes to an end. While the broadcast is progressing, the user will be able to see how many people are watching at any given time. Once the video has been published to YouTube, a link to the video can be automatically posted to the user’s Google+ feed.
This new feature is extremely similar to services like Justin.tv, Ustream and Livestream. In order to start a Hangouts On Air session, the Google+ user starts a typical Hangout session, invites a group of friends and gives the session a title for the Google+ feed post.
After marking the “Enable Hangouts On Air” check box on the setup screen, the user will be asked to link Hangouts to their YouTube account in order to record and publish video. While other Google+ users can join the hangout, the actual live streaming event doesn’t start until the “Start Broadcast” button is clicked.
In addition, Google offers the HTML embed code for the streaming event at the top of the page, thus users can embed the streaming broadcast on a personal blog if they choose. Hypothetically, the live streaming event could be playing on the user’s Google+ account, YouTube and any number of sites all at the same time. Offering a small amount of video production tools, users can mute other members of the hangout during the broadcast or make another user the main focal point of the streaming event. In addition, members of the hangout can text chat with each other during the broadcast and it won’t show up on the video screen.
In order to use Hangouts on Air, a Google+ user must be at least 18 years old and have a “YouTube account in good standing without any strikes” according to the availability page. In order to promote the worldwide launch of Hangouts on Air, Google mentioned a variety of live streaming sessions that will occur over the next few days. Those include events with news organizations such as the New York Times, CNBC and CBS This Morning as well as streaming sessions with celebrities such as late night show Conan O’Brian and English chef Jamie Oliver.
At this time, Hangouts on Air is limited to Google+ users on a desktop or laptop. In addition, extra Hangout features like Screenshare and the sketchpad application are not compatible with Hangouts on Air. While Hangouts can be used on Android and iOS devices, the Hangouts on Air feature may be added for mobile users at a later date. The live streaming feature would be excellent for public events, but the video quality may suffer due to slower data transmission rates and data costs could get expensive on a 3G or 4G smartphone.
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