YouTube Starts Experimenting With Real-Time Notifications

The real-time web is all the rage, with FriendFeed widely deploying live feeds earlier this month and Facebook working hard on bringing real-time streams to its homepage. Now YouTube is looking to get in on the action, and is currently testing a new feature dubbed ‘YouTube RealTime’, which allow users to see which of their friends are currently online, the videos they’re watching, and comments they’ve left. Updates will be shown in a persistent toolbar, which means that users will be able to see them no matter where they are on the site. The new feature is currently being tested on a limited basis, but we’ve gotten our hands on 25 invites, which we’ll give to the first 25 users to leave a comment below.

This is going to be big. While real time feeds are bound to increase engagement on most sites, I think they’ll work especially well on YouTube. Many people go to YouTube without any particular video in mind – they simply go to watch something. Now as they browse through the site looking for the latest videos to go viral, they’ll also get constant status updates as their friends stumble across cool videos too. It’s tough to ignore a popup notification that your friend just watched a video called “Cat rides skateboard” – you’re going to want to see for yourself, and then your friends will see an update alerting them about the video, creating an endless loop.

I didn’t think it was possible, but YouTube is about to become even more viral.

Update: YouTube isn’t keeping this as small as I initially thought – each person to get an invite will get 25 invites of their own.