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YouTube today announced it is enabling HTML5 playback for live streams. At the same time, live streams can now be viewed at 60 frames per second (fps).

A few puzzle pieces had to come together to make this possible. On October 29, YouTube quietly turned on 60fps support for videos uploaded on that date and later. While clips uploaded before that date remain at 30fps, new videos shot at 60fps suddenly started playing back at their proper framerate.

The 60fps option requires using YouTube’s HTML5 player. In January, YouTube ditched Flash for HTML5 by default.



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YouTube says 60fps live streaming is “an early preview” that only works on HTML5-compatible browsers (if you’re on the latest version of Chrome, IE, Firefox, Safari, or Opera, you should be fine). We asked, and this is no coincidence. “60fps live streams are indeed only supported in the HTML5 player,” a YouTube spokesperson told VentureBeat. “With live streaming in general, we’re focusing on the HTML5 player, as we think it provides the best experience.”

Because YouTube live streams require using an HTML5 player in supported browsers, variable speed playback has now also been made possible. You can skip backward in a stream while it’s live, or even watch at 1.5x or 2x speed to catch back up.

YouTube now automatically transcodes live streams into 720p60 and 1080p60. If that sounds like too much for your device, don’t worry. YouTube also plans to make live streams available in 30fps on devices where high frame rate viewing is not yet available.

Gaming, e-sports, and Twitch

60fps is great for fast-action videos, but it’s particularly awesome for video games. YouTube says as much: “We know high frame rates are especially important for gaming streams, so we’ve worked with Elgato and XSplit on new versions of Elgato Game Capture, XSplit Broadcaster, and XSplit Gamecaster that support 60fps live streaming to YouTube, available for download starting today.”

Developers will also be happy to learn that any app using YouTube’s live-streaming API can add a new high frame rate flag to enable 60fps streaming. For those interested, that’s the cdn.format, which lets you specify the format of the video stream that you are sending to YouTube.

Twitch is the live-streaming king in gaming and e-sports right now. Amazon bought Twitch for $970 million in August, following months of rumors that Google would snatch it up.

Today’s feature additions are clearly an attempt to bolster Google’s offering when compared to Amazon’s. Just yesterday, Twitch added on-demand videos to its mobile app.

After Google’s deal to acquire Twitch fell apart, new rumors started to circulate that YouTube was planning a renewed push for its live-streaming platform, unsurprisingly focusing on the hottest market: gaming and e-sports. When it comes to live streaming, Twitch essentially has a monopoly on both.

YouTube didn’t reveal anything along those lines today, though the Google-owned company did say “there are plenty” more live-streaming improvements on the way. We may see more about YouTube’s strategy at Google’s I/O developer conference later this month, but given that today’s news easily could have waited till next week, we’d wager E3 (June 16 to June 18) is the more likely candidate.

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