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Twitch revises some recent changes after Internet backlash

Posted on August 8, 2014 AT 12:23pm

Earlier this week, popular videogame streaming site Twitch made a number of major changes to its service, and those changes caused many broadcasters and viewers to contemplate leaving the site. Now, Twitch has made revisions to some of those changes.

Things started on Tuesday when Twitch’s sister site Justin.tv went dark. (Twitch originally began as a gaming-focused channel on Justin.tv.) The next day, Twitch announced a change in how VODs (archived videos) would work. While some aspects were positive—such as being able to watch VODs on mobile or other non-PC platforms—many were concerned over the changes being made to how long VODs would be saved for. While Highlight videos would be saved indefinitely, those videos could only be two hours in length, and all other VODs would be auto-deleted after a set amount of time (14 days for regular broadcasters, 60 days for Turbo subscribers or partners).

While still dealing with what that would mean for the site and its services, another big change was announced. Twitch switched on audio recognition technology from Audible Magic, with the purpose of finding archived videos that improperly feature copyrighted music. Should a VOD be found to have such audio, the portion of the video containing that audio would be totally muted in 30-minute chunks. Unfortunately, the result was more than just having videos with background or ambient music muted—gameplay that featured nothing more than in-game audio was also getting muted, with examples ranging from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to Fallout 3 to the NES classic Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out to indie rhythm-based rogue-like Crypt of the Necrodancer.

Reactions to these changes around the Internet were swift and unkind. Well-known broadcasters such as Cosmo Wright totally pulled out of Twitch (in exchange for newer rival services such as hitbox.tv), and fans of Twitch were vocal in expressing their displeasure to the company and its policy changes.

All of this leads to last night, when Twitch announced a few revisions to the week’s changes, in the hopes of calming fears and keeping members from defecting.

Over the last two days, you’ve provided us with an incredible amount of feedback about the new Video Manager, VOD storage, and Audio Recognition system. We take your opinions very seriously, and we’re acting on your concerns.

First, effective tonight, the maximum time limit on highlights will be removed. You will once again be able to create highlights of any length and they will be saved indefinitely.

Secondly, we’re deploying an “appeal” button for VODs that have been flagged for copyrighted music by the new Audio Recognition system. We recognize that the system is not yet perfect. We want to make this system as fair and unobtrusive as possible, and we greatly appreciate your help.

The change to maximum limit on highlight videos is a good one, and will help elivate one of the major concerns people had—as fitting archives into two-hour chunks can be tough, especially for events such as game speedruns or tournaments like EVO.

The second part, however, still rubs me the wrong way a bit. Twitch’s audio flagging tech—and, really, the tech of many such companies, including YouTube—work off of the “guilty until proven innocent” concept. The moment a video is muted due to being flagged for the game’s own soundtrack, the system for flagging videos is broken. Members shouldn’t have to go through the process of proving why they’re innocent—Twitch should have to prove why they’re guilty.

Still, Twitch seems to be willing to try to find common ground between their needs and the wants of their members, either due to their legitimate passion for offering a site for gamers to stream their adventures, or out of concern for their profit potential (or both). It’ll be interesting to see how all of this plays out—not only if these changes will be enough to satisfy the concerns of those who had concerns, or if fans and streamers are actually willing to move en-masse to other services if they aren’t satisfied.

Eric L. Patterson, Executive Editor
Eric L. Patterson got started via self-publishing game-related fanzines in junior high, and now has one goal in life: making sure EGM has as much coverage of niche Japanese games as can realistically be crammed in. Eric’s also active in the gaming community on a personal level, being an outspoken voice on topics such as equality in gaming and consumer rights. Stalk Eric on Twitter: @Eric_EGM. Meet the rest of the crew.

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