On Thursday evening, YouTube rolled out its new sharing feature in its mobile app for Nigerian users. The launch started worldwide on Monday although it was already being tested in a few markets (Canada and Latin America) since 2016.
The sharing feature allows Youtube users interact using social messaging within the app. Once you have an updated YouTube mobile app, YouTube allows you to find friends from your contacts and then invite them to “share”. In addition to chatting, YouTube users can now reply to videos they receive with other videos, or even a heart – just as is done on Instagram’s direct messaging feature. Group sharing with up to 30 people is supported, too.
While there’s currently no way to block requests from users you don’t know, the feature allows you to deny any such requests.
It’s obvious that the idea for the sharing feature was born out of YouTube’s desire to keep all social activity that the many videos posted on the platform generate within the app itself – like sharing video links and generally just chatting with friends about what what you’ve watched. A link for a video that would ordinarily have to be copied out of the app and posted on WhatsApp or other messaging apps will no longer need to be copied as users can simply forward interesting videos to their friends on the app.
The shared video will stick to the top of the chat when scrolling down to allow for replying and chatting while users are watching a video. This apparently gives the feature more of a real-time feel.
To be honest, if this convenience is all the app has to offer, it’s hard to see it breaking the market already built by cross platform mobile messaging giants like WhatsApp.
Also, the launch of the sharing feature is happening at a rough time for YouTube. Parent company, Google, has been mired in controversy for weeks now while YouTube itself also faces several challenges with creators over the tougher guidelines it has just rolled out to determine what videos can or cannot earn advertising revenue. Apart from the obvious strategy to use said guidelines to curb the creation and sharing of “hateful or incendiary content” and videos containing inappropriate use of family-friendly characters, creators who do not yet have a total of 10,000 views on all videos posted cannot earn ad revenues on the platform.
Yet, the biggest challenge faced by YouTube is Facebook’s recent branch-off into video content with its “Watch” tab which now allows Facebook users discover videos liked by their friends while giving the opportunity for the makers of these videos create a following for themselves. The Watch tab allows (or will allow) users follow creators and chat with friends while they consume content. Why does this sound all to familiar you ask? It’s because it is. That’s exactly what YouTube already does and has done for years while making young, creative multimillionaires in the process.
The tab was launched on Wednesday, just two days after YouTube launched its sharing feature. Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg was just on Instagram high-fiving David Marcus on attaining the feat of “more than 1 billion” users of Messenger each month. Meanwhile, Facebook has already got content partners like National Geographic, Major League Baseball and A&E to promote its Watch tab by being the first set of content creators. YouTube relies on the strength of its own community to push and popularise the sharing feature.
But like YouTube’s sharing feature, Facebook’s Watch tab will only roll out world wide gradually after it’s been test run on limited users in the U.S. first.
Meanwhile, YouTube says that more improvements will be rolled out in time on its new sharing feature.