How Ustream Works

The Power of Interaction

Ustream was founded with the idea of bringing people together, so it's not surprising that it provides an interactive experience for its users. Individual audience members can communicate directly with the host and each other in a variety of ways, which means that the viewers of a show can actually influence the direction of its content.

The most common form of interaction between a host and his or her audience is through the various chat and messaging options Ustream provides. During a broadcast, viewers may have the choice to chat in a standard IRC (Internet relay chat) instant message format, similar to AIM or GTalk. People can also use their Twitter IDs to log in to ongoing social streams by clicking the "T Social Stream" button on the top of the chat box. These chatting options provide Ustream users with an open forum, allowing them to communicate with each other and the broadcaster in real time. By granting hosts and their viewers so much freedom to interact, Ustream fosters the creation of interactive online communities, and broadcasts have the ability to become uniquely intimate, engaging events for everybody involved. However, chats are optional, and some broadcasters may choose to avoid them completely.

Instant polls are another way broadcasters can interact with their audiences. At any point during a broadcast, a host can create a poll by clicking the "poll" button in the upper-left corner of the screen. The questions and answers are written by the host and can be about anything. Regardless of the topic, polling the audience allows hosts to gain a more thorough understanding of the consciousness of their listeners, allowing them to refine the content of their broadcasts.

Although it's much more indirect, one of the most vital methods of interaction between a host and his audience is establishing and adhering to a schedule. After all, the audience isn't going to just sit around and wait for broadcasts. Virtually all shows with any sort of community follow a strict schedule with clearly defined broadcast times.

Click over to the next page to see how recent political events brought Ustream unprecedented success and which celebrities use the service to connect with their fans.