Late last week, YouTube unveiled a sleek new interface. Unlike many other social networks’ redesigns that roll out gradually, YouTube’s occurred in one instant with the click of a button. The popular video-sharing site’s changes aim to take content sharing to the next level as well as promote the updated Channels feature. As is expected when a social network makes big design changes, YouTube is already on the receiving end of backlash and negative comments about the updates. However, with YouTube’s recent announcement of its desire to become a real alternative to cable television, the site felt the clean redesign was necessary in order to draw in more people, make sharing across social networks easier, and give the Channels a chance to shine.
YouTube now offers deeper integration among Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Users can connect their Google+ and Facebook accounts directly to YouTube to share their favorite videos with their circles and friends and also see what videos their connections are sharing. Taking a page from Twitter, there is also now a Trending tab, where current popular videos and channels scroll in a news feed. Under the Trending tab are other categories of videos that allow users to explore and find content often tailored directly to them.
With over 160 million unique viewers a month, YouTube is trying to increase that number with an updated Channels feature that is designed to compete with broadcast and cable television. The site now encourages users to subscribe to channels, which are essentially just collections of videos. In order to contend with TV, it is only natural that the site has announced upcoming series from high-profile partners, such as Jay-Z and Ashton Kutcher, who will provide original content that will entice users to tune in online and subscribe to their channels. Channels are suggested on the left side of the screen and a bright blue “Add Channels” button is at the top of the screen as well, making it very simple for users to find content and subscribe to channels in which they are interested. With various video recommendations along the right side of the screen, the site hopes users will stay on the site longer, and instead of clicking around on a video or two, will check out all the content on their favorite channels.
While the redesign is definitely different and sometimes so many recommended videos can be a bit annoying, it was necessary for YouTube to perform these updates and as with redesigns to other social networks, the backlash will subside in time. Integration between social networks was inevitable for this site and is probably something that should have happened long ago. It will be interesting to see how users respond to the Channels and if YouTube can ever become a real competitor to television.