Is this the new face of personal video broadcasting? Google announced major upgrades to its Google+ social network yesterday, and some of the most important are in the video arena. The Hangouts is for grouping your friends and/or broadcasting in public groups in live video chats. With the new Hangouts on-air feature the user can broadcast the stream. The revision to Google+ lets you record the stream and set it for open public consumption. When on-air, up to nine friends can join the chat itself and anyone can watch the broadcast.
Google says it is starting the program "with a limited number of broadcasters," whatever that means. But tonight the service is offering its first public on air session featuring will.i.am. Well, at least we hope so. There is no mention of the event on will.i.am's Google+ page. In fact, the dude hasn't even filled out a profile.
The Hangouts experience is being enhanced as well with screen sharing tools for showing people what is on your own desktop screen.
In some ways the additions in Google+ seem to be following the natural tendencies of users to use the video chat system to create shows. Google says it has already seen people use the Hangout feature to generate cooking programs, interview and game shows. For the YouTube generation, everyone is a star just waiting for a venue and easy technology.
Unlike YouTube the system allows the social network to be both participant and audience of the show in real time. The record and broadcast element clearly sets Google+ up to become an attractive broadcasting venue but it is unclear how Google will restrict its use.Graft this new capability onto the other piece of the rollout, mobile, and the prospects for social media video broadcasting get even more enticing. Hangouts is coming to smartphones. It will be rolled out first for Android users running version 2.3 of the OS and then eventually to iOS and other Andorid versions. Imagine the freedom to assemble on the fly talk shows with remote guests or to use location as one the core of the content. Ultimately it will be interesting to see how Google differentiates between their existing video social network, YouTube, and this Google+ Hangouts on air feature that seems to offer more real time participation and crown interactivity.