- YouTube opened up its experimental mobile app Uptime to all users, according to TechCrunch. The app lets people watch videos with friends while reacting and commenting. Google’s internal incubator, Area 120, launched the test version of Uptime in March as a way to explore new interactive ways to watch YouTube.
- Uptime lets users watch videos with friends directly in its app, instead of viewing YouTube videos alone and sharing links in chats or on other social networks. Groups of friends can watch videos together in real-time or join later to play back their friends’ reactions as they watch.
- The Uptime app asks for a Google account login, but emphasizes connecting with Facebook friends or inviting others to download the app. Since the experimental version’s invitation-only launch in March, Uptime added new features like support for music videos and a redesigned home screen to search for content. Uptime is free on the iOS App Store.
Just as Facebook is expanding from social media into video content, Google’s YouTube is venturing into the opposite direction with its plans to roll out messaging and sharing features in its mobile app. Meanwhile, Uptime isn’t a feature that’s built into the YouTube app, instead requiring a separate download and sign-in. That may be a side effect of being developed by Google’s Area 120, which lets employees try out new ideas. Area 120 apps don’t carry the Google brand name in the App Store, and the parent company doesn’t promote them, TechCrunch reported. Area 120’s other products include personal stylist app Tailor, voice messenger Supersonic and the coding education app Grasshopper.
YouTube isn’t the first company to provide co-watching technology, however, given Google's deep pockets and YouTube's strong role in video, Uptime could be a strong contender. Tumblr’s Cabana, Let’s Watch It and Fam are among the apps that also make mobile video more social. Microsoft’s Skype, which this month was redesigned to include updated chat and messaging features, plans to introduce video co-watching with support for YouTube, TechCrunch reported. Uptime is designed to remove friction from sharing and discussing YouTube videos with friends, and it's new menu of emoji reactions resembles those seen on Facebook Live or Twitter’s Periscope live-streaming app: a smiley face, surprised face, heart eyes, angry face, grimace and crying face.
Uptime arrives as major platforms like Google and Facebook are feeling pressure to be more innovative or risk facing a repeat of what happened with Snapchat, which successfully brought legions of younger users onto the platform, hurting Facebook's relevancy with the crowd.
Last week, YouTube announced new features for its mobile and desktop platforms at the eighth annual VidCon conference in California, according to VentureBeat. The two new mobile capabilities include a feature that automatically reformats videos to fit a mobile screen, regardless of whether it was originally shot vertically or horizontally. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki also introduced a virtual reality (VR) format that lets users film a 180-degree view directly in front of the camera instead of a 360-degree landscape. The VR 180 feature lets YouTube creators make immersive videos on a smaller budget.