Confirming earlier reports that YouTube was planning to introduce more social networking features to its service, the company announced this morning the launch of YouTube Community, which allows video creators to better engage viewers using text, GIFs, images and more. The goal with the new features is to help keep creators from departing to competing platforms by offering more tools for connecting with their audience, beyond the videos themselves.
YouTube has been testing the new service over the past several months with a handful of creators in order to gain feedback. Today, it’s launching the service into public beta with this group of early testers, and will make it available to a wider group of creators in the “months ahead,” it says.
Access to this expanded feature set is made available to the creators and their viewers by way of a new “Community” tab on their channels.
From here, creators can share things like text posts, images, GIFs and other content, which the audience can thumbs up and down, like the videos themselves, as well as comment on.
Viewers will see these posts in their “Subscriptions” feed in the YouTube mobile application, and can also choose to receive push notifications on these posts from their favorite creators, YouTube says.
Early adopters of YouTube Community include John & Hank Green, AsapSCIENCE, The Game Theorists, Karmin, The Key of Awesome, The Kloons, Lilly Singh, Peter Hollens, Rosianna Halse Rojas, Sam Tsui, Threadbanger, and Vsauce3.
For example, on the vlogbrothers’ channel (John & Hank Green), the video creators say they’ll use the Community page to inform their fans about updates to their channels, events, and other fun links and photos they’ve been collecting.
Effectively, this Community page allows the creators to run a mini-social network of sorts on their channel’s page. This is an important move for Google, which has historically struggled to get social right, as seen with the failure of its Facebook competitor Google+. The company once tried to bake Google+ into YouTube itself, with disastrous results. (It finally rolled back that integration last year.)
In terms of making YouTube more of a social community than it already is, the Community tab makes more sense than a destination social network like Google+, as it effectively gives the creators the ability to talk directly to their fan base, and drive sort of social engagement the company desires.
YouTube says its Community feature will remain in testing for the time being, as it listens to feedback and rolls out new features and functionality. A broader rollout is planned for the months ahead, but no exact ETA was given.