Live-Streaming, MicroBroadcasting Redux

Live-Streaming apps for smartphones have seen a surge in interest in the last year.  Meerkat and Periscope (now Twitter) leapt onto the scene nearly at the same time and captured the imagination of a new crop of people anxious to share their experiences as they are happening – in real time.

Why the sudden interest?

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The Democratization of Broadcasting

Audio/Video broadcasting on the internet is widely supported by a number of “free” apps.  These apps shield the end-user from the ultimate cost of audio/video processing and transport.  But in some sense, they are not actually free.  Most of these apps ask you to trade personal information of value for the right to use the service. Types of valuable information include your identity, perhaps your friends’ identity, and most often they require your “attention” … in the form of advertising.  These items of “value” can be converted into real money, and the real money keeps the free service going, and the
virtuous cycle continues.

Broadcasting can require transcoding for each receiver

Broadcasting has many uses.  Some are commercial, but there are other types of one-to-many communications that are possible.  Exemplars for this type of service are the broadcast of a piano recital to members of the family, or the broadcast of an unusual impromptu street performer to a few friends.

This article examines the costs of broadcasting and asks if lowering the costs can result in a new service model: one that is lean, anonymous and speedy.

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Microbroadcasting

I’ve recently become interested-in and fascincated-with the idea of “microbroadcasting.”  In the radio world, the term microbroadcast referred to a small radio station, often a pirate radio station. These stations broadcast infrequently, and often you needed to discover its frequency and program schedule through a means other than the radio station.

On the internet, anyone can be a broadcaster using only a smartphone with an app, or a webcam and some software.  There are plenty of “broadcast-it-yourself” applications.  So what is it that makes one a microbroadcaster and not a broadcaster?

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