December is a big month for Beam, who just shared a massive update regarding their effort to integrate with the Windows platform.

Live streaming platform Beam.pro is the chief competitor to Twitch.tv, offering industry-leading low latency that enables the streamer and viewer to communicate in near real time.

Microsoft announced in October that Beam integration was on the way for Windows 10 and Xbox One, and December is the first step along that journey. Here's everything you need to know.

Update: We mistakenly wrote that Beam for Xbox would go live with this update. That will happen later this winter, but it's not quite ready yet. Apologies for the mix up.

Matt Salsamendi, who leads the Beam efforts, shared a whole raft of new features combing to the platform, including speed improvements, new website features and more.

"We're no longer the scrappy startup we were last year, and with the resources of Microsoft behind us, we're going back to the basics and evaluating how we can make every aspect of the site more smooth, stable, and epic. Today, I'm extremely excited to announce that Pro users can begin testing an entirely new version of Beam, written from the ground up with scale in mind."

Starting on December 20th, Pro users and Beam Partners will be able to opt-in to test Beam 2.0 in beta, ahead of a public roll out. Here's a run down of the features.

FTL for XSplit, OBS and Restream.io

The first new feature is FTL for all streamers. "FTL" is Beam's super-fast streaming solution, presently available only via the Tachyon OBS client for PC. Now, popular streaming solutions XSplit and OBS are releasing updates that will support Beam's FTL servers. Restream.io — which is a popular solution for streaming to Beam and Twitch simultaneously — will also support Beam's FTL features.

New Design

Beam.pro will also pick up a new website design, complete with a new logo, new animations, and more "consistent styling" across the interface. Additionally, Beam 2.0 will repair one of the biggest complaints about the site so far — web performance on the lower end — by giving the site "insane" performance speed. Site load speed has been increased by five times over, with 60 FPS capabilities for the web player, and a much-improved mobile experience for Microsoft Edge.

Beam.pro will also pick up a new homepage, with the ability to feature multiple content creators and scheduled events. Beam will also be able to feature mature streams to authenticated 18+ users on this new home page, while additionally surfacing improvements for displaying a streamer's information. The website will also pick up localization for 26 other languages, and feature closed captions, improvements for those with colorblindness, with screen reader and keyboard navigation support.

Chat panels will also improve, with visual enhancements to voting, emote auto-completion, new mod tools, and improved error handling.

Xbox Live Login

Soon, Beam will require you to use your Microsoft Account and your Xbox Live details to sign up to the service. Initially, this will be offered on an optional basis, until a mandatory roll out later in the future. Starting December 16th, Beam 2.0 beta testers will be able to switch their accounts over to Xbox Live straight away. Beam says that requiring Xbox Live details to join Beam will improve the service in the following ways:

  • Allows us to leverage Xbox tooling, support, and moderation to scale Beam's community.
  • Enables significant security enhancements with 2FA, suspicious login detection, and more.
  • Brings more viewers to Beam with a universal and easy to use authentication mechanism
  • Enables deeper social experiences, game integrations, and richer content discovery
  • We'll be adopting a Twitter style username system where, while your username is your unique gamertag, you can specify a custom channel display name that viewers see when going to your channel. (e.g. My gamertag is Salsa, but my channel name could be MattDoesGaming).
  • It's likely we'll adopt a verification system shortly after launch too, so you know that I'm the real MattDoesGaming, of course.

Bots, Overlays, and Developers

One of Beam's unique features is its SDK, which allows developers to bake stream controls directly into their games. People who stream on Beam.pro can enable all sorts of gadgets for their streams, including soundboards, and the ability for viewers to spawn mobs in games like Minecraft. Users spend sparks to interact with streams, which they can earn from watching streams, or streaming themselves. Beam is bringing in one of the services most popular chat bots to join the team, meaning deeper integration, faster development and more features. We're unsure which chat bot Beam is referring to at this point, but it will no doubt be revealed sooner rather than later.

What about Windows 10 and Mobile?

Beam currently has an app for iOS and Android, and Beam 2.0 will provide a better mobile experience to those of us using Microsoft Edge on Windows 10 Mobile. With regards to Beam viewing apps for Windows 10 and Mobile devices, Matt Salsamendi gave me a definitive "maybe," noting that the Beam app for Xbox One is built for UWP. It seems likely to me that Beam will come to all Windows 10 devices eventually, but Microsoft just isn't willing to commit to a time frame as of yet.

The future is certainly looking bright for Beam, which has grown exponentially since the acquisition earlier in 2016. Streaming from your Xbox One is set to arrive in early 2017, and Beam will eventually be integrated directly into the Windows 10 OS, sitting alongside the Xbox Gamebar.

Follow us on Beam.pro/windowscentral for Dan and Zac's live Friday podcast, Paul Acevedo's Saturday giveaway streams and our MGL Wednesday streams.