2016 was a massively important year for Beam. We saw the release of interactive game integrations, FTL, and a massive amount of fun features and improvements.
We’re no longer the scrappy startup we were last year, and with the resources of Microsoft behind us, we’re going back to the basics and evaluating how we can make every aspect of the site more smooth, stable, and epic. Today, I’m extremely excited to announce that Pro users can begin testing an entirely new version of Beam, written from the ground up with scale in mind.
New UI Language and Design
While preserving the awesome components of Beam’s existing design, we’ve evolved every aspect of the experience.
- Evolved design language and components
- Brand new kinetic animations for transitions and interactions
- More consistent styling across the site
At the cost of removing my one and only design contribution to the site (that beautifully terrible loading spinner), we’ve significantly improved every element of the site’s performance.
- Initial site load time has been improved 5 times over (RIP spinner)
- 60 FPS render performance sitewide
- Vastly improved mobile web support (for those on devices without apps)
We’re not done improving performance, either; Beam will continue to get
harder, better, faster, stronger. In light of these performance upgrades, let’s take a moment to say goodbye to our old friend, the loading spinner.
Increased Bitrate/Resolution Support
More room to get the most out of the platform.
- We are increasing our max bitrate to up to 10 Mbps
- 1440p 60 FPS streams now supported
- Super high motion 1080p now looks awesome
A New Homepage
We want your content to be the first thing people see when they find Beam. So we’re introducing a brand new homepage with a wider breadth of featured content from you!
- Ability to schedule and feature multiple broadcasters and events
- Ability to feature mature streams to authenticated 18+ users
- More screen real estate to share info about broadcaster’s communities
Note that the homepage is a work in progress, and will continue to evolve over time.
Deep Chat Improvements
Chat interaction is the #1 way communities are built on Beam, and while the existing Beam chat experience was pretty good, there were certainly some rough edges.
- A HUGE focus on better error handling, Beam now deals with network hiccups with ease
- A new and improved polling UI (including the ability to see what your friends voted on)
- Inline emoticon auto completion (see what your emote messages look like before sending)
- A new fancy mod gizmo (click and drag a person’s username)
A Brand New Player
Video playback is the single most critical part of the Beam experience, and even if playback works 99% of the time, even 1% of users having a poor playback experience is a bad thing, especially with tens of thousands of people watching.
- Significantly better browser support, more controls, and better error handling
- Not only is HTML5 still default, you’ll never see Flash again
- Better VOD playback (including scrubbing, linking to timestamps in VODs, and chat replay)
It’s important note (in the interest of transparency) that this unification of our video stack means an increased focus on FTL, and a single, reliable, fallback stream (HLS) where FTL is not available. Because of this, streams that are not using an FTL enabled streaming client will see increased delays.
Xbox Live Login
By introducing Xbox Live for sign in, you’ll be able to leverage the same account you use for Xbox, Skype, and Windows to log into Beam, and if you don’t already have a Microsoft account, we’re making it super easy to get started.
We’ll be launching Xbox Live login as an option when signing up and logging in, with plans to eventually make Xbox Live the best (and only) way to sign into Beam.
It’s always a bit jarring to change the way you log into a site, but there are a number of awesome reason why this is cool for the community:
- Allows us to leverage Xbox tooling, support, and moderation to scale Beam’s community
- Enables significant security enhancements with 2FA, suspicious login detection, and more
- Brings more viewers to Beam with a universal and easy to use authentication mechanism
- Enables deeper social experiences, game integrations, and richer content discovery
We’ll be adopting a Twitter-style username system where, while your username is your unique gamertag, you can specify a custom channel display name that viewers see when going to your channel. (e.g. My gamertag is Salsa, but my channel name could be MattDoesGaming). It’s likely we’ll adopt a verification system shortly after launch, too, so you know that I’m the real MattDoesGaming, of course.
As an existing Beam user, you’ll have the ability to convert your account to an Xbox Live account at any time.
A Brand New Logo
We’ve thought a lot about how to take the awesome Beam brand, centered around communities and next gen technology, to the next frontier, and I’m extremely excited to unveil the new Beam logo, along with a series of Beam branded assets you can use to make your stream even more awesome!
We have lots in the pipeline for next year, but we want to leave you with a sneak peek at early 2017.
One of our immediate priorities is improving the Beam experience for our mobile users. To accomplish this, we’ll be releasing hybrid applications in early 2017. We’ll be revealing more technical details later on, but tl;dr – an update to the site means an update to all applications across all devices.
Beam on Xbox
It’s coming. This winter. Stay tuned.
FTL, our custom streaming protocol resulting in sub-second delay, is getting a massive update, and will soon be available for use in your favorite streaming software.
Beam Pro users can start testing all of these new beta features today, and we’ll be rolling them out to all users in early 2017.
Please remember that everything above is in beta, and we’re grateful for your feedback as we work on making everything better for you. We have so much more coming this winter, and we’ll be providing more in-depth updates Soon™. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.