It’s become clear to me after observing Yahoo! Live since we launched it two months ago that the appeal of the site hinges on the social vector more so than the content vector. While we designed the service to target “broadcasters,” the most interesting uses have involved interactivity between users via live video and chat rather than highly produced content at the source. I believe that the fundamental shift occurring here is that the social interaction happening on sites like Y! Live, Stickam, etc. are in many ways starting to resemble more closely real life interaction, which is not time-shifted nor text-based. Real life socializing happens in real life resolution (yes, that’s higher than 1080p), it happens in real-time, and it is often unscheduled and serendipitous. When I stumble into a video channel, see something funny, and make snarky remarks with people in the channel with me, it just _feels_ more social than poking and wall posting could ever be.
As technology trends continue to unlock new media capabilities for consumers, and new interaction patterns are experimented with, I think we’ll see a this trend continue and socializing on the web will happen more and more in real time. Of course, legacy chat and IM were the grandfathers of this trend, but they were locked in specific use patterns and siloed in client software. Real time will happen in an open way on the web, and more than a specific technology or feature, it will become a generalized vector that web applications and communities follow to make their sites “more social.” Facebook’s launch of chat yesterday is an example of this. Their execution is interesting as they are embedding their news feed into chat – an unfamiliar pattern to users, but one which demonstrates a this very philosophy towards making live interaction an intrinsic part of the overall site experience. Google Docs live editing and chat is also a great example.
So, as the death of one tired buzzword (“social networking“) often begets a new one, I’m waiting to walk into my friendly neighborhood SOMA coffee bar to overhear someone say: “Didn’t you know? Live is the new social, yo.”