Google have been known to throw new features, widgets and buttons onto sites to try and improve the experience and they could be doing the same with Youtube in an attempt to save it from the onslaught of Facebook Video and to affirm its position as the number one video sharing platform. Their latest experiment is 'Cosmic Panda', which is a new TestTube experiment open to all. Entering into the experiment gives you an entirely new view of Youtube, with the option to leave the experiment at any time. According to Youtube's own coverage of the experiment, this is largely a design change, bringing in a new viewing experience for the user. Features also include more options to customise your channel, which is a positive move for brands as the customisation features are currently fairly limited for standard channels. A look at the new channel options below show how different this is for Youtube, compared to the standard viewing experience we're used to :
A channel layout now looks like the below (taken from a client's channel) :
The layout is a radical redesign for Youtube and given how long the standard layout has been around for so long and has set the tone for how we expect to receive video content online. The most recent redesign was over a year ago in January 2010 and was not as extensive as this latest experiment. The fact that the new design, though still only in experimental mode, affects channels, videos and playlists shows that we could be in for a big change at Youtube. It suggests that it may be part of an attempt to refresh Youtube as they face competition from both Facebook and also Twitter who offer instant uploads easily, without the need to create separate profiles on Youtube.
Preparing for battle
We've seen recently just how much the battle for online photo sharing has been hotting up, with more and more new services and features popping up, that are seriously impacting established players such as Flickr. They're losing out to bigger and better services that can offer people the benefit of their existing social commnunities to share with, as well as taking advantage of new technologies, as seen through Instagram and Color. As smartphone usage profilerates, it's inevitable that video uploading will become more and more pervasive, likely following the same growth rate that we've seen photo sharing follow. Google would well be trying to get ahead of the game here by changing the site early and adding new features that sees their existing userbase stay and encourage people over from new video sharing sites that pop up. Their wilingness to work with brands and offer new customisation options is key here.
As brands have flocked to Facebook Pages because of the ease of use and the multiple touchpoints offered to engage with their community. Youtube are still far surpassing Facebook video in the facilities offered to brands, particularly through their insights offered to brand. Their free statistics are incredibly sophisticated and in the era of data being the most valuable online commodity for brands, you would expect Facebook to start making some movement here. We can see the beginnings of this battle as Twitter unveiled instant video sharing alongside photo sharing in June this year. It will be difficult for Youtube to compete with the ease of use offered by Facebook and Twitter as we already spend so much of our time on there and I'd expect to see a lot of movement in the online video space over the next few months.