Beam – the streaming service Microsoft acquired earlier this year and plans to integrate deeply into Windows 10 and Xbox, has announced their December Update.
The streaming service is going through a massive transformation – as the company explains in the announcement, it no longer is a “scrappy startup;” with Microsoft’s resources, it can now aim higher and score even higher.
A lot is changing, so we are going to put it down as just as we can. Here we go.
Something noteworthy: these changes are not rolling out for everyone yet, but the Beam Pro users get early access to everything mentioned below.
A new logo, homepage, and design language
The Beam website that you can visit right now – here – follows a certain competitor’s design guidelines. The Material Design language isn’t bad, but it’s competing with Microsoft’s Modern (and Project NEON in future) – we can’t have that.
The new design language will go across the new site, affecting every tiny button that comes in its wake.
For the most part, the design language has “evolved,” as Beam puts it. There are some brand new “kinetic” animations while transitioning from pages, and interacting with elements.
There are a few changes to the homepage as well.
The homepage can now show mature streams to authenticated 18+ users; it can now also feature multiple broadcasters and events, dedicating more space to highlight them and their communities.
Beam says that the homepage is work-in-progress, and will change further; feedback from Beam Pro users would be indispensable at this time.
At last, Beam has a new logo; the new branding kit is available here, and this is what it looks like:
More bits & higher performance
The team at Beam – with help of the wizards at Microsoft – have achieved site loading times five times faster than the old design. The site, along with all of its animations, will now render at a solid 60 frames per second; with the site design being even more responsive on mobile devices.
As for the more bits part, here’s what’s changing:
- Beam now supports a maximum bitrate of 10 Mbps for live streams.
- Beam can now stream at 1440p at 60 frames per second.
Increasing bitrate also means that high-motion streams will now look much better – behold the failures of professionals in Rocket League or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with maximum quality.
Beam has done a lot of things the big boys haven’t done – perhaps why Microsoft purchased Beam in the first place; one such thing was building its very own custom streaming protocol.
Beam’s FTL claims to deliver mere sub-second delay in streaming, but with this update, things are changing. Firstly, it’s receiving a massive update and might soon be available in – as Beam puts it – “your favorite streaming software.”
Secondly, streams broadcasted using the traditional HLS protocol from non FTL-enabled software will see increased delays. That’s not a good thing, of course; hopefully, it will change once Beam is done upgrading the FTL protocol.
Chat & the player
It’s incredible how much the chat experience matters for these streaming services – Twitch wouldn’t be Twitch without its (occasionally insane) community.
Beam understood this early on – the new update improves the design and makes some life-improving updates as well. Here’s what’s new:
- An overhaul of the error handling system – network hiccups shouldn’t disrupt the live chat any longer.
- In-line emoji auto-completion, so you can see what you are going to send before sending it.
- Moderators can now drag and drop people around.
- A brand-new polling UI, which also lets you see what your friends voted for.
There’s also a few improvements made to the video player. The big one being the demise of Adobe’s Flash – it’s HTML5 or nothing. A fitting update, considering Microsoft’s Edge is ditching it soon as well.
The other updates to the player include a better Video-on-Demand experience, including live chat replay.
Here’s where Microsoft starts absorbing Beam; the new website will feature Xbox Live as an option to login and sign up. Beam also says that it might – at some point in the future – remove all the other login and sign up options, with your Microsoft account being the only one left.
The new site will also adopt a Twitter-style username system which would allow users to have a custom channel name, separate from their Xbox Gamertag – an important feature if Xbox and Microsoft account is to be merged with Beam.
Additionally, the site will add a verification system for high-profile users – you will know who the real Terry Crews is.
When is all this coming?
As mentioned, this update is available today for the Beam Pro users for beta testing; the rest of Beam community will have to wait until “early 2017” to try out the new site.
Additionally, Beam is also working on a UWP app that will work on Xbox and Windows 10; a release is planned around the same time the new site comes online.
Also, Beam is teasing something called “hybrid applications” for mobile. The idea is to update the mobile app across all devices simultaneously with the website. It honestly sounds like a web wrapper; Beam will provide more details sometime soon.
If you are a Beam Pro user and want to try out the new website, browse to your account settings and enable the ‘#December’ beta update.
You can read more about the update on Beam’s official blog post; the team is also hosting a Q&A session on 21st December at 12 PM PT – that’s in about 6 hours, at the time of writing. You can ask your questions here, and watch the stream here.
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