Google-owned YouTube had a chance to beat Twitter’s Periscope and its biggest competitor, Meerkat, to market by somewhere in the ballpark of 8 years, but decided against the move due to the fact that a large portion of the company’s resources were engaged in fending off a Viacom lawsuit and creating the Content ID copyright detection system.
According to the Wall Street Journal, YouTube considered building its live-streaming platform into a mobile application. While the current existing system had been designed for a select few users and required Google’s permission to launch a stream, the mobile app would have featured far fewer restrictions on who could use it and how.
Unfortunately, YouTube was also engaged in a legal battle with Viacom at the time over the use of unauthorized copyrighted material that had been uploaded by users. Combine that with the fact that the company was right in the middle of developing the Content ID system it still uses to track and remove copyrighted videos, the project was never fully explored and eventually fell by the wayside.
Google seriously considered building out its own desktop live-streaming service, which requires users to get Google’s approval prior to live-streaming an event, into a less restrictive mobile app, said a former YouTube employee with knowledge of the matter. But for a variety of reasons the company didn’t pursue it. Among them was that building the Content ID system while also fighting Viacom was such an undertaking that going into mobile live streaming didn’t seem worth the extra investment, this person said.
It’s quite possible that we’ll see Google jump on the livestreaming bandwagon at some point in the future, but even if that does end up happening, there will always been a question of what might have been if Mountain View had been the first major tech company to enter the space.