Google today announced a number of updates to YouTube that will allow more video producers to use YouTube for live streaming. All channels in good standing with at least 100 subscribers will be able to live stream from their accounts within the next few weeks.
By bringing the number of required subscribers down to 100, Google is opening up this service to a large number of new users. Earlier this year, Google dropped changed the limit to include channels with at least 1,000 subscribers, so there is a clear trend here. It's not clear, however, if Google will ever open up live streaming to all users on YouTube.
With today's update, YouTube is also giving its users the ability to upload custom thumbnails for their videos. Until now, YouTube told its users to make sure that they shoot their video with thumbnails in mind, so that they can select a good one directly from the video. Starting today, users can simply upload a custom thumbnail for their shows. As Google notes, though, it will revoke the ability to upload these thumbnails from creators who don't follow its Community Guidelines.
Another new feature in today's update is the ability to use annotations to link externally to online stores and the user's associated websites, which will give users new ways to monetize their shows.
Users can now also program related videos for their viewers. This allows them to create a playlist of shows for their viewers and YouTube will "show viewers of your videos the next episode from the series and a link to the whole playlist. Just mark your playlist as a “series” in the playlist settings."
As a YouTube spokesperson told me, today's update essentially turns everybody with a verified account on YouTube into a partner. All of these feature are (or will shortly be) available to all users, with the obvious exception of live streaming, where you do need to have at least 100 subscribers to activate it.