It seems the Twitch.tv, the popular gameplay streaming site is backtracking on amendments made to their terms of services. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitch, it is basically a streaming site where people can upload videos or streams of them playing video games for others to watch. Think of it as the Youtube of game streaming. That distinction is probably the reason Google decided to acquire the startup for the sum of 1 Billion dollars. In fact, it’s being reported that the acquisition is actually being handled by YouTube rather than Google itself. Well, along with new owners, and the big name brand comes new rules and regulations; rules and regulations that were not well received by the Twitch community. The Twitch community let the company hear it across the web today and were particularly vocal in what turned out to be an absolutely brutal reddit AMA with Twitch CEO Emmett Shear. The backlash was apparently so severe that Twitch are now backtracking on a number of proposed changes though the main source of anger seems like it will be sticking around.
The main issue in question here is the introduction of a YouTube like, audio scanning technology that will scan Twitch videos for copyrighted material and will mute out audio tracks in blocks of 30 minutes whenever it detects a copyright infringement. Twitch has partnered with a company named Audible Magic in this endeavour; a company which has ties to the music industry and has experience in this type of work. According to the company when a violation is detected Users will be shown a pop up informing them of the reason for the muted audio track along with the red indicator bar along the progress bar indicating the muted section. Users are understandably very upset as Twitch is all about creating an immersive experience for people to get enthralled by. Audio goes a long way in setting the mood or inducing emotion in the user. Muting the audio tracks will undoubtedly ruin the experience for many users. Imagine what a movie would be like with no music… Unfortunately, even after the backlash this is one area Twitch is standing pat on though they do say that this only applies to VOD content and that there are no plans to do this for live streams. I gotta say, while it sucks from the perspective of the users, this is something that was nigh unavoidable for a brand trying to build legitimacy. Adjustments made to assuage fears include the addition of an appeal button but any user who has dealt with flagged content will tell you this is little comfort.
The other areas of concern are far less controversial. The retracted changes were in regards to how long playbacks would be saved and the length of Twitch “Highlight” reels. Basically, once you’ve completed your broadcast, your playback is saved automatically. Until the changes it was saved indefinitely. The changes would have seen playbacks deleted after 14 days for free users and after 60 days for premium users. According to Twitch’s CEO there telemetry indicated that virtually no playbacks were viewed after 14 days which added up to massive storage requirements for playbacks that were virtually never watched. Users are also allowed to create highlights from past broadcasts. While the highlights were going to be stored forever they would not be limited to just two hours. This was seen as a big problem, particularly for Speedrunners who would obviously need to be able to save a video as a single take to prove their run. The two hour limit for highlights has thankfully been done away with and while there are no concrete plans for how long playbacks will be stored Mr. Shear has vowed that the issue will be addressed in the coming weeks.
All in all, Twitch should really be commended for listening to their user base and instituting changes to their policies to ensure the best user experience. In their defense the one issue they refused to cave on was a lose lose situation. Copyright protection is a necessary evil for a company trying to win mainstream adoption and the acquisition by Google probably fast tracked this initiative. While the user experience took a back seat in this instance the fact is Twitch is in touch with their user base and seem truly committed to delivering a great experience.