YouTube has introduce a new in-app messaging platform, which has been in testing since mid-2016 – but there’s a catch: It’s only available in Canada for now. Why Canada? Well, it’s not unusual for companies to soft launch products in Canada, because it’s a good testing ground thanks to its market similarity to the U.S., albeit with a total addressable population of around the size of California. But Google-owned YouTube also says it’s the right place to launch because Canadians share more YouTube videos than anyone else in the world.
That’s according to Google product manager Shimrit Ben Yair, who discussed the launch with Canada’s Financial Post. The feature is a built-in messaging platform, available in both the Android and iOS applications, which lets you send to connections directly within the app, and make drop messages for talking about videos, too. The goal is clear: YouTube wants to keep all that action within its own platform, rather than losing attention to others when they want to chat about a video they just saw and enjoyed.
There’s nothing video-specific about the messaging platform, in fact, besides the fact that it resides within the YouTube app and can be used to easier share clips. That means it can be used for just having text conversations, as well as for sharing links to content found elsewhere.
As mentioned, Canada should prove a good testbed for this functionality: It has a user population around 15 percent more active when it comes to sharing overall, and a strong homegrown YouTube star community. It also offers YouTube a place to trial this with a fairly large, US-like user base without incurring the risk of rolling it out broadly to its entire user pool, in case it ends up not being appreciated by fans of the service.
It’s an interesting play, and one that could result in something much bigger, if the messaging activity ends up ballooning as it did on Facebook. No word on when it rolls out more broadly at this stage, but if you’re a contact for a Canadian and they add you to a conversation, you’ll get to check it out before then, so bug your northern pals.