YouTube’s New Messenger Means You’ll Never Have to Leave YouTube
WE’VE ALL HAD it happen: You’re talking with a friend, and the conversation turns to something that a YouTube video perfectly encapsulates. For me recently, it was the news of a dead whale washing up on a shore near San Diego. How is a town supposed to get rid of such a thing?
“Not by blowing it up with dynamite,” a friend of mine laughed. “There’s a famous clip—I think it’s on YouTube.”
Now YouTube is making a move to let you take those offline moments online directly, without copying and pasting links into emails, texts, apps, or other IMs. Instead, YouTube wants you to chat and share with friends right in YouTube.
Starting today, so-called native sharing will go live for a small percentage of YouTube users. They can then spread the feature to their friends by inviting them into conversation threads. Friends can chat about the shared video right inside YouTube’s mobile app. They can also reply with another video. The message threads reside within a new tab on YouTube’s mobile app so groups can dip in and out of conversations and catch up on what they missed or add new videos of their own.
Shimrit Ben-Yair, director of product management at YouTube, says the feature was developed after her team hypothesized that a streamlined native way to share YouTube videos would result in more sharing—which is exactly what YouTube wants.
Yes, YouTube is still killing it as a video platform: Today, the average YouTube viewing session on a mobile device is 40 minutes. It reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable network in the US—that’s counting YouTube mobile alone. And it’s still by far the clear leader in internet video, with a billion-plus users consuming videos rabidly on the site.
But Facebook and Snapchat are chasing YouTube’s audience aggressively. Even Amazon jumped into the fray, yesterdayannouncing its own online video posting service. YouTube clearly needs to do what it can to stay competitive, even if that’s an incremental move like native sharing. The more time users spend inside the YouTube app, then perhaps the less time they spend on competitors, and especially Facebook, the undisputed king of mobile.
If YouTube can keep users glued to their phones and prove to advertisers they can come up with new and creative ways to drum up attention, that’s very good for YouTube. The company already uses machine learning techniques that automatically probe users’ viewing histories and smartly predict what they might want to see next. Now with IRL human recommendations from friends, users have one less reason to leave.