Whatever your opinions are about the upcoming presidential elections, the 2012 vote is shaping up to be another breakthrough year for getting voters involved online. This month’s debates are going to be streaming on two platforms: YouTube and Xbox Live. Last night they got their initial test as the presidential candidates took to their podiums for the first of four wars of words. In terms of how the two streaming services performed, the results raised some questions.
Microsoft has developed a special new platform called Xbox Elections 2012 for streaming information and video about the big November vote. However, the live stream got off to a shaky start with a static picture and no sound before the candidates took the stage. Then, about 50 minutes into the debate, the Xbox stream stopped for many users. Kotaku reported that there were some good ideas at work in the livestream, such as the interactive questions with real-time answers. But as the article also noted that the questions were not always relevant to what the candidates were saying, and it would have been more engaging to include specific queries based on the topics of debate.
YouTube fared better with the streaming process on its special politics channel — you can watch its full video of the debate below — but the company has experienced serious problems with copyright claims during past attempts at live streams. The Democratic National Convention, the Hugo Awards, and the Curiosity Mars rover’s landing were all victim to infringement claims that made the videos go dark. These actions have forced YouTube to scramble to appease many unhappy viewers. Last night’s debate didn’t have any issues, but we’ll be watching the next three wary of the chance for another black screen.
The moves this year to bring politics into the more accessible world of online streaming is a good step for getting a wider audience involved in civic duties. However, it’s clear that there are still technical and legal details to get sorted out before people can reliably turn to streaming for the latest in news and politics.