YouTube is running a live-streaming test today and tomorrow, in the biggest step yet toward the video portal offering a full streaming service.  The test started this morning at 11:00a.m. Eastern Standard Time, and continues through tomorrow evening.

According to the YouTube blog, the new platform integrates the live streaming functionality right inside the YouTube channels:

“All broadcasters need is a webcam or external USB/FireWire camera. Included in the test is a ‘Live Comments’ module which lets you engage with the broadcaster and the broader YouTube community. For the purpose of the trial, this offering will only be available today and tomorrow. Based on the results of this initial test, we’ll evaluate rolling out the platform more broadly to our partners worldwide.”

Wow.  That’s huge.  We’ve speculated many times on this site about a possible YouTube live-streaming service, and this announcement and trial is essentially concrete proof that they have, indeed, been working on it.  And assuming the test goes well, they’re hoping to expand it as well.

There’s a pretty nifty interactive schedule of the live broadcasts, which you can see here:

YouTube is quick to warn that this is a test… a trial… and, as such, will likely have some hiccups and buggy behavior.  And I can verify this is the case.  I clicked on the only “watch now” option in the interactive schedule—Rocketboom—and was treated to multiple errors.  Each time, the live stream would stop and start—like the old days of YouTube Buffering—and then time out, giving me a “Not Broadcasting At This Time” error.  It was pretty disappointing.  But here’s a screenshot:

But you can see how the set up is much like any of the existing live-streaming services like Ustream or—video stream on the left, live chat comments on the right.

I’d say YouTube’s live streaming has a long way to go before it’s ready for public consumption—but then again, YouTube has a huge user-base, and news of this test is pretty widespread.  So it’s possible they just underestimated the response and the number of interested viewers and now the servers are overloaded.

Nevertheless… YouTube’s interest in offering a live-streaming service is official and as real as it gets, as the test this week demonstrates.  I’ll be trying again later in the day, and keeping my fingers crossed for an experience with fewer bugs and errors.  I want YouTube live-streaming to succeed, and this trial is a huge step toward that end.