The Evolution of Live Streaming

We’ve come a long way from floppy disks and week-long downloads. There isn’t much left that the internet hasn’t affected. Many people’s lives now revolve around events online and live streaming is vital to that. The ability to watch, read, and listen to whatever you want on demand is still remarkable.

Live streaming has a longer history than many people expect. But go back a few decades and the sheer choice and scale we have today seemed impossible. In 1993, the World Wide Web was just a few years old. The internet had fewer than 10,000 websites and two million computers during that time. Today, there are around two billion sites and 26 billion connected devices.

But 1993 was a special year in the development of live streaming. 24 June saw the first ever live video stream, a music show put on by a band of computer technologists. Severe Tire Damage took up half of the internet’s entire bandwidth to put on their show on what was then called the Mbone. Computer scientists bragged that “four or five” video streams could broadcast at the same time.

The Rolling Stones followed Severe Tire Damage in streaming music a year later. But the next steps soon followed. A baseball game was live streamed in 1995 and four years later, things got more official. Bill Clinton became the first US President to broadcast on the internet. He attended an online town hall in November 1999 with over 50,000 viewers.

But of course, the rate of progress only increased in the new millennium. YouTube launched in February 2005, forever changing the world of live streaming. Its origins aren’t quite as impressive as the platform is now. Its early intentions varied from a type of online dating service to a place to catch up on global news.

In April 2005, ‘Me at the zoo’ became the first video uploaded to the platform. The 18-second clip starred the site’s co-founder Jawed Karim commenting on some elephants. Today, users upload over 400 hours’ worth of videos every minute.

The 2008 event ‘YouTube Live’ continued to push the live streaming boundaries. It featured live music and appearances from some of the biggest names around. Stars like Will.i.am and Katy Perry attended alongside many popular YouTubers of the time. The show concluded with a live performance from U2.

But the possibilities for live streaming were starting to fall into ordinary hands. Justin.tv launched around the same time and from that platform, Twitch was born. The idea of random people recording hours of their lives would have been alien a few decades ago. Now, many tune in to watch their favourite streamers every day. The possibilities are endless with streamers doing anything from playing videogames to travelling. Today, Twitch has more peak concurrent viewers than television channels CNN and MSNBC.

But there is so much more to live streaming than video. One of the biggest factors behind the growth of Twitch has been online gaming. Today, players across the world can compete in video games against one another. PC and console gamers thousands of miles away can face off in the same games. But the options are far more varied than traditional console or PC titles. Users can play chess on Lichess or even blackjack at an online casino like Betway. Live streaming has grown alongside online gaming.

But of course, more traditional media forms are crucial to live streaming. Netflix launched in 1998 as an online DVD rental store. In 2007, the company dipped its toes into the world of streaming and that side of the business soon grew. By 2012, Netflix had over 27 million streaming customers and today, that figure is closer to 150 million.

The effects the company – and its rivals – have had on traditional media are massive. Netflix has been creating original content since 2013 and won the Best Picture Oscar in 2019. It’s a similar story in music with industry-changing platforms like Spotify and Tidal. Sport is also being live streamed by millions of viewers every day.

There isn’t much left unaffected by the internet. Live streaming has turned so many industries on their heads. The ability to watch and upload live video and music on demand is a game changer. We’ve come a long way since the 240p Severe Tire Damage concert in 1993. Who knows what possibilities live streaming will create in the next 25 years?

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