YouTube is now offering a beta version of Leanback, a previously announced service that automatically plays videos in a continuous stream, providing visitors with a television-style experience. Videos in the endless stream are chosen based on the user’s YouTube settings and preferences, such as their subscription content.
“Just as the name implies, YouTube Leanback is all about letting you sit back, relax and be entertained,” Kuan Yong, a senior product manager for YouTube, wrote in a July 7 posting on the Official YouTube Blog. “Videos tailored to your interests play as soon as you visit the site and they play in full screen and high definition, continuously.” Users can tap their keyboard’s right arrow key to skip past a particular video, or the up/down arrows to search or access controls.
With Leanback, Yong added, “watching YouTube becomes as easy as watching TV.” The service is now available via this YouTube site; if one’s YouTube account is connected to a Facebook account, then videos being shared by friends on the social network will be integrated into the Leanback feed.
Bringing a television-style experience to the Web seems to be a prime concern of Google, which announced Google TV during the Google I/O developer conference May 20. Google TV is based on the Android 2.1 mobile operating system, and leverages Google’s Chrome Web browser-with support for Adobe Systems’ Flash 10.1-to integrate a blend of online content, such as Netflix and favorite Websites, into consumers’ usual television programming.
Other major companies-including Apple and Microsoft-have launched initiatives over the past few years to integrate the Web more completely with television, but these efforts have generally met with limited success. Google evidently hopes that consumers will see its offering as the best of both worlds-the versatility of Web search and applications, combined with the mental comfort food of traditional television, and all of it on the same screen.
During the conference, Google indicated that it expects more than 180,000 Android developers to create applications for Google TV, which will be integrated into Sony televisions and Blu-ray players and Logitech companion boxes. Equipped with WiFi and Ethernet, and capable of connecting to satellite and cable boxes through HDMI cables, the hardware will be sold through Best Buy starting this fall-although price points are not yet available.
YouTube has undergone other improvements in recent days, including an updated version of its mobile site that provides users with a more streamlined and speedier interface for watching video while on the go. In addition to larger touch-friendly screen elements, the new features include the ability to create playlists, designate favored videos and receive search query suggestions. By May 2010, five years after its initial launch, YouTube played host to some 2 billion video views per day, with 24 hours’ worth of video uploaded per minute.