YouTube Axes Its RealTime Toolbar Experiment

Last year, we reported on an experimental new YouTube project called RealTime.  The feature let you interact with your friends on YouTube, sharing videos and seeing what else they were watching using a slick toolbar that was integrated at the bottom of the screen. Alas, it looks like YouTube wasn’t satisfied with its performance: less than a year later, YouTube has removed the RealTime feature entirely. The following message was posted this morning to YouTube’s bug report forum:

We’ve seen some of you wondering what occurred to the Realtime Toolbar. The Realtime Toolbar was recently retired and is no longer an available feature on YouTube.

We were excited to release and experiment with Realtime and it has inspired us for new features on YouTube in the future. We look forward to introducing many new features in the coming months and are sharing them with you all. Many thanks to those of you who used Realtime and for your feedback to us on this feature- your suggestions and input help the Team shape the site and determine what should be developed to further improve the YouTube community.

~ Liz (on behalf of the YouTube Team).

RealTime looked and behaved a bit like Facebook’s notification system and the Meebo Bar. You could click on a menu item in the bottom right hand side of your screen to see what your friends were currently watching. If a friend invited you to watch a video, a small notification window would pop up immediately. This could have been a boon to discovery, as it made it very easy for friends to swap the cool videos they found on the site.  But YouTube never rolled it out widely — you could only access it if you had an invitation.

So why did YouTube get rid of the feature?  As it turns out, RealTime didn’t increase engagement and discovery as much as the other features that the site has been rolling out, like auto-sharing videos to Facebook and Twitter, and the improved YouTube friend finder.

Thanks to Michel Wester for the tip