By Joanna Weiss, Globe Staff
How much has the world changed in 20 years? Two decades ago, Live Aid had earnest musicians and teeming crowds, novel collaborations and enough serious rock to merit a day on the couch.
But yesterday, if you were going to spend a sunny Saturday watching a global pop music extravaganza, you had two choices: watching the joint coverage on MTV and VH1 or watching live streaming video on AOL. And small screens notwithstanding, you were far better off online.
AOL let you zip from city to city on your own, without relying on someone else's editorial decisions. AOL didn't bleep expletives from Green Day in Berlin or Madonna in London. The internet show also started earlier and ran the whole event live.
And AOL didn't interrupt its broadcast with ads: Yes, MTV and VH1 reminded us often, they were helping to raise global awareness of African poverty. But they were also raising global awareness of MTV and VH1, stocking commercial breaks with ads for the upcoming shows -- ''The Surreal Life," ''Celebrity Fit Club," ''The 70s House" -- and commercials that didn't exactly match Live 8's Save-the-Earth message. Not long after the Black Eyed Peas crooned about global responsibility, for example, MTV aired an extra-long ad filled violent scenes from the upcoming movie ''The Island."