Beyond YouTube: It’s not a dynamic database, it’s a digital studio, web producer, live broadcaster, content network, and video platform, …

A week ago YouTube announced and launched its long expected live streaming feature which allows selected partners to broadcast live for their YouTube audience. The YouTube live channel offers a discovery tool for live shows and integrates the live streaming capabilities. Although the platform is still in a beta phase and only available for selected partners, it is a next step of Google and YouTube to compete with content creators and live streaming services like Ustream.com, Justin.tv, but also traditional television (see for example the live webcast of the Coachella Festival on April 15th – 17th).

YouTube Live

Especially with the increased attention for professional created content and the recent acquisition of the Next New Networks, YouTube is shifting from being just a platform for user generated web video, to a broadcasting company owning distribution channels, producers, content developers, a loyal audience, and a need for high quality and relevant advertisers. However, YouTube offers many more tools and functionalities.

YouTube

YouTube started in 2007 and was bought by Google in 2009. There is a video on YouTube with a behind the scenes of the first days of YouTube which gives an idea what life looks like at a promising startup. Every hour 35 hours of video is uploaded, and 2 billion videos are viewed on a daily basis. In YouTube’s press room there’s an interactive timeline with the mayor YouTube milestones.  I think it is safe to say that 99% of the people who read this entry have watched at least one video on the biggest web video platform in the world (if not, click here to see the first uploaded video on YouTube). Maybe 20% comments and rate the movies they watch, create playlists, and favorite videos. And maybe 1% actually produces and creates content and shares their creativity to the world. But aside these best known functionalities, YouTube offers much more which redefines YouTube from being a dynamic database of web videos, to a complete broadcasting studio and media company.

Screen size and website layout

With the introduction of new internet connected devices and platforms such as set-top boxes, tablet pc’s, and smart televisions, the traditional user interface became too complex to operate with touchscreens or remote controls. To tackle this issue and provide the users of these devices with a more TV like experience, YouTube introduced the leanback function which shows the videos full screen and provides more simple navigation. Furthermore, it automatically starts new video’s to create a ‘flow’ like experience, based on previous watched videos, favorites, or playlists. A concept closely related to the traditional television experience which is another indication how YouTube is trying to reposition the YouTube platform. Below a video of the leanback function on Google TV:

Create your own videos, animations, and movies.

Last March YouTube introduced three applications that allow users to create their own videos, animations, and movies. Stupeflix Video Maker provides tools to ‘tell a story with your digital content’ by mixing pictures, music, video, and text and combining these into a single video ready to be posted on YouTube (tutorial video). GoAnimate provides a basic animation studio to create drawings, characters, and text to create animations that can be uploaded to YouTube (video tutorial). And finally there is Xtranormal Movie Maker which ‘lets you to turn anything you type into a fully-animated CG movie. Set up your scene, type in your script, and animate it instantly’ (tutorial video). By allowing users to create their own content YouTube is trying to decrease the amount of copyrighted material that is uploaded. In an new attempt to explain copyright law and fair-use policy they launched the copyright school which uses an animation for Happy Tree Friends for educational purposes (via Digital Life):

Lights, camera, edit! Become video editor in your own online editing studio

Another tool that many users don’t know about is the video editor which allows users to use their existing videos to create and edit new productions. YouTube recently added new functionalities such as more transitions, a music library, titles, video rotations, audio mixing, and effects, to create more professional looking videos. Especially the stabilizer is an impressive new online feature.

The editor can be used to create a standardized introduction and ending for videos and just upload the raw material from a small handheld camera. By aggregating small clips it allows for endless new forms of remixes including sound, transitions, and music. A simple tool which makes everyone a basic video editor.

Watch and create 3D video

3D technology is developing and growing rapidly in the television and movie industry. The recent introduction of the new Nintendo Handheld shows how even smaller screens are able to create an immersive 3D experience. YouTube has allowed users to watch 3D videos since july 2009 (Watch the introduction video from YouTube). But what most people don’t know is the ability to create your own 3D web video by uploading two videos with different perspectives. This new tool creates a 3D video from two videos with different (eye like) perspective. Although there are great examples of 3D videos on YouTube, not many people have 3D glasses which gives them a relatively small audience.

The MyYouTube channel

To encourage users to create a profile and connect with their favorite channel by subscribing, the MyYouTube platform was launched. On this channels users can connect with their favorite artist and vote to win prizes. By making it a competition and providing the possibility to recommend friends to subscribe YouTube tried to create a rivalry among artists to have the most subscribed channel. This approach is similar to the recent hypes on Twitter and Facebook over the amount of followers and fans. With Lionel Messi reaching 7 million likes in 7 hours after he launched his Facebook channel, and Charlie Sheen who reached 1 million followers on Twitter in 25 hours and 17 minutes, a new record.

Embed customs players on your website

Besides embedding single videos, YouTube provides the possibility to create a custom player with uploaded videos or playlists. You can name and describe the player, choose a theme, and change the layout. By creating a custom player you can control which videos are shown besides the main video (the first video in your list) and allows you to showcase your favorite playlists or your own uploads.

Check out what’s topping the YouTube Charts  

Besides the trending videos on the YouTube homepage, YouTube charts allows you to sort on the most popular videos based on the most views, comments, subscription, or favorites, on a daily , weekly, or monthly basis. So if you’re bored or just interested what’s topping the YouTube charts go to http://www.youtube.com/charts (make sure you set your location right since YouTube filters automatically on your location).

Follow and stay ahead of the latest trends and virals

Besides YouTube charts there is a YouTube Trends blog which picks the latest trends for you, and gives insight in the numbers and figures of these videos. For example, they provide a comparison of when the YouTube hit ‘Friday’ from Rebecca Black (now 105,788,703 views) and ‘Baby’ from Justin Bieber (now 517,860,201 views!) reached 100 million views. To create your own analysis of the way videos spread and become viral YouTube provides a Trends Dashboard, which you can use to browse and compare videos and trend between ages, countries and (American) cities.

To conclude

This post gives an overview of some of the functionalities that YouTube offers but most users don’t know about, and how it redefines YouTube from being a simple platform or database for web video. For a more detailed overview have a look at the YouTube essentials page.  YouTube keeps adding new functionalities to the website to compete with broadcasters and cable companies. By promoting original content, providing simple editing tools, and broadcasting live events the cable and television companies got themselves another competitor in the already changing field.

Follow this blog on Twitter @endoftelevision

About the author:

Geert Faber graduated with a Master of Science degree in Business Administration from the Free University in Amsterdam and is currently graduating as a Bachelor of Arts in Media & Culture specializing in New Media and Television studies, writing his graduate thesis about the convergence of new media and television. Beside graduating he works as an E-business and Social Media consultant and blogs for new media conferences.

Find more about me @flavors.me

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