Google, YouTube Let Friends Unite for Presidential Debate, Virtually

YouTube is making it easy for friends anywhere to "gather" together virtually in a Google+ Hangout so they can share the experience of the second presidential debate.

Google's YouTube unit will bring the second presidential debate live Oct. 16 to groups of friends who gather in Google+ Hangouts to watch the event and make snarky comments among themselves.

The first presidential and vice presidential debates were both streamed live on network television as well as online, including on YouTube's Election Hub site.

This time, however, YouTube is making debate viewing a group activity using the power of the Internet.

"We're not sure about you, but last week's energetic vice presidential debate left us wanting more," wrote Olivia Ma, a member of YouTube's News and Politics Team, in an Oct. 16 post on The Official YouTube Blog. "Luckily, you'll have your second chance to watch Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama face off in the second presidential debate tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York."

The big change this time, wrote Ma, is that viewers won't have to watch alone without their pals, wherever their friends might be at across the globe, using a new YouTube feature being unveiled Oct. 16.

"You can create your very own virtual debate 'watch parties' tonight inside a Google+ Hangout," wrote Ma. "All you have to do is click on this link, which will open up a Hangout window. Then, you can invite some friends, name your debate watch party (if you like), and enter the Hangout. The ABC News debate live stream will already be loaded inside the Hangout."

For political junkies, it could be the happening of this election year.

"You'll each have to make your own popcorn, but it's worth it to see your friends' real-time reactions and exchange color commentary while the candidates go head-to-head," wrote Ma.

By clicking the set-up link above, users allow their computers or other devices to install some small applications that add the video stream of the debate into a Google+ chat room. Once that is done, invite the friends of your choice and you'll be able to see and hear the debate broadcast while sharing comments with your virtual guests. You can even see who among you has the better hors d'oeuvres made up for the event.

The virtual debate-watching party comes just two months after YouTube unveiled its YouTube Elections Hub, where voters can visit to view streaming video of the candidates and races through Election Day on Nov. 6.

The site covered streaming video of both the Republican and Democratic national conventions and includes videos of a wide range of political events since the conventions.

The content there is being provided by a diverse range of news organizations, including reporting and analysis from ABC News, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed, Larry King, The New York Times, Phil DeFranco, Univision and The Wall Street Journal, according to YouTube.

This presidential campaign is probably the most accessible ever, from the standpoint of its 24/7 coverage online. That means that the comments, actions, activities, strengths and weaknesses of the candidates are always on display, as well as unfortunate gaffes that are always caught by the media pack that is always trailing them.

Political candidates are still learning about the power of the Internet and how it affects their candidacies.

The new YouTube debate-sharing feature is the latest example of what is sure to be a continuing evolution of new ways to bring politics to the people, wherever they are observing the events.