Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Ustream Works

Ustream Search

Although it might not be the most popular video broadcasting Web site out there (that honor goes to and its plethora of live sporting events), Ustream provides a unique service for a constantly expanding user base [source: TechCrunch]. It offers viewers thousands of different programs across a wide range of topics. Ustream's video categories include:

  • Live (featured programs currently broadcasting)
  • Mobile (broadcasts from mobile devices)
  • Sports
  • Entertainment
  • Gaming (covering everything from video games to poker)
  • News
  • Animals
  • 24/7 (shows that are always live and broadcasting)

Each category has multiple subcategories (Entertainment/Comedy, Animals/Dogs, Music/Rock). The diversity of Ustream's content ensures that if you're looking for something to watch, you can find a show you're interested in, or, if you're broadcasting, potential viewers can find you.

Ustream's service, however, is not without its downsides, the most obvious of which is its inconsistent internal search engine. Its results are sporadic and indicate that Ustream has no ability to weed out content not related to a specific search. To complicate matters further, the broadcasters who create the shows are the ones to source and tag the programs, and they often link wildly inaccurate search tags to their broadcasts in the hopes of attracting more viewers. A search for "Shiba Inu" (Ustream's most popular broadcast is the Shiba Inu puppy cam, with, as of May 2009, close to 15 million total page views) brought up only six results. There were two Shiba Inu cams, one eagle cam, a drawing program, a local news broadcast and a show about computers. A subsequent search for "Shiba Inu" returned identical numbers, but different content. The two Shiba cams were still there, but the results also included a comedy broadcast, a video-blog, a radio station, another local news broadcast and a mixed martial arts show.

If you're new to Ustream, your best option probably is to just click on a subcategory you're interested in and continue searching until you find what you're looking for. It might take a little while to find something you like, but once you do, it's easy to locate the program again. Just hit the blue "Follow" button above the broadcast window, and it will be stored under your community settings on the top of the screen. As long as you're logged in, you can easily sort through your favorite programs. Also, Ustream provides links to similar broadcasts, so once you've found something you like, it's easy to find other broadcasts you'll enjoy.