Yahoo Live was live, now it’s dead

Update:

Valleywag is reporting that Microsoft is in talks to acquire Ustream, a Yahoo Live competitor, for $50-million or so — which MG Siegler at ParisLemon notes doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. As for Yahoo Live, it is now apparently “taking a maintenance break” according to the site, and the blog asks for our forgiveness because they’re just a group of six people who are trying to do their best and learning as they go. There’s also a comment from Chad Dickerson of Yahoo Live on Joe Duck’s blog post about the downtime.

Original post:

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Yahoo Live went, er… live earlier this evening, and promptly keeled over and died. At last check (10:20 p.m. EST), a featured “performer” named JT The Bigga Figga was actually moving on camera, but the audio sounded like someone playing a 78 rpm record at 33 and 1/3 rpms — although I know some of my younger readers probably won’t even know what I’m talking about with that analogy.

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Just before the super slow-mo audio feature, there was a big popup saying “we’re experiencing heavy traffic and have run out of capacity,” and also suggested that users come back “when our servers have stopped smoking. Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read/Write Web tried to broadcast live, but was also brought down by lack of bandwidth and/or server space. As Valleywag noted, maybe Brad Horowitz shouldn’t have said on Twitter that Live was up and to “help us crush it with load.” Consider it crushed, Brad.

While it was up and running, though, it looked like a pretty killer “life-streaming” product (although the videos aren’t stored anywhere, as TechCrunch notes, which is kind of a big drawback). It’s slick-looking, and easily as polished as Mogulus.com or Stickam or Ustream or Blogtv.com. If it can stay up, that is. I have to wonder though — as a commenter did on one of the blogs I read — how long it will be before YouTube launches something similar. It’s not rocket science.

CoverItLive looks like a worthy app

Rafe Needleman at Webware has a post up on CoverItLive, which reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about this live-blogging tool for awhile now (and no, I’m not going to “live-blog” this post — that would be too recursive for words). The company, which is based in Toronto, used to be called Altcaster, and president Keith McSpurren gave me a look at an early version of the beta last year. I thought an all-in-one app that offered support for video, photos and chat was a pretty good idea, but it looked more than a little rough around the edges.

Looking at the most recent version of the app, the team at what became CoverItLive has clearly been working on both the look and the functionality. As Rafe notes, the software makes it easy for someone covering a live event — such as CES or an election, for example — to host a live chat, poll the readers in almost real-time, embed video and so on. Once the event is over, the entire session is saved and can be replayed, as you can see with CrunchGear’s live-blog of Bill Gates.

If I were live-blogging something, I would certainly consider using CoverItLive. The last time I did it, for a panel during the Online News Association conference last fall, I used a BlackBerry — not something I would recommend 🙂

Maps, satellite photos and Grand Theft Stupid

I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree with Mike Arrington, who calls the new Microsoft Live Local street-level photo thingamajig a “killer” in one of his typically breathless posts on TechCrunch, in which he says it will help Microsoft’s Live.com continue to “crush” others in the Web 2.0 portal game. I tend to agree with David Galbraith, who suggests quite succinctly that the drive-by map feature is total bollocks and that the Microsoft team have “lost the plot.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The interface, as David points out, is ridiculous – a cheesy, video-game style rendering of a car’s cockpit, which you can switch from a regular car to a race car (complete with fire extinguisher). Quirky and fun? Maybe. I would add “stupid and useless” to that list as well though. As one commenter noted on TechCrunch, “not sure what use I would have for something like this.” A fair point. Not to mention, of course, that Amazon’s A9 launched a similar street-level photo feature about six months ago. True, it doesn’t let you “drive” your virtual “car” down the streets, but I actually see that as a positive rather than a negative.

Now if Microsoft could somehow add virtual people to the streets and let you mow them down like in Grand Theft Auto or Carmaggedon – that would be cool. After all, it is called a “street-side drive-by.” But it would still be useless for mapping or finding your way anywhere.

Google tiptoes into the homepage game

Kudos to Phil Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped – and a reader who emailed him – for pointing out that Dell is shipping PCs with a branded home page powered by Google’s customizable portal, an Ajax-driven feature not unlike Microsoft’s live.com or (my personal favourite) netvibes.com. The page has a toolbar at the top that features links to Dell services, as well as boxes of Dell content, but they can be moved around and other things can be added.

And the Dell page isn’t the only one out there: Someone commenting on the Blogoscoped post pointed out that Current Communications, which provides broadband over power lines, also has a custom page powered by Google, which owns a stake in Current. The next question, of course, is so what?

Paul Kedrosky might be right when he says that the home page venture could be as significant as the Google software pack, but as one poster on Paul’s blog noted, trying to take control of the home page is so 1990’s. Does it even matter any more? Perhaps. In any case, it’s an interesting move – and Steve Rubel is right, someone should be writing about this (other than me, that is).