YouTube announced two feature updates today to make it easier for people to find the content they’re looking for on the platform. This includes visual search features and easier discovery of foreign language videos that have captions in the user’s local language.
On desktop, YouTube users can hover over a video’s thumbnail and watch a brief clip play. This functionality will now extend to mobile with the added ability to browse the chapters within a video. From the search page, users can jump directly to the chapter they’re most interested in.
“Let’s say you’re looking for a good sourdough recipe and want to work on your kneading technique. With these new search results, you can see all the steps in the video, from feeding the starter to pulling the bread out of the oven — and skip right to the chapter on kneading,” wrote Pablo Paniagua, director of Product Management, in a blog post.
The other product update recommends videos in other languages to the user, so long as the video has captioning available in their language. So, to extend YouTube’s sourdough example, if you speak Icelandic and can’t find a good sourdough tutorial in your language, YouTube might recommend an English-language tutorial with Icelandic subtitles. To start, YouTube will supplement search results with English-language videos, but it plans to expand to more languages.
In India and Indonesia, YouTube is also testing a feature to complement search results with links to other sites from Google Search.
“Not all searches may have enough high-quality or relevant video content to fully address what you’re looking for,” Paniagua explained.
Google Search already had a feature that let users skip to select moments in a video. Even late last year, Google (parent company to YouTube) experimented with a mobile search feature that would recommend short-form videos from TikTok and Instagram. But, the video would open within the search engine to keep users on Google, rather than opening the TikTok or Instagram apps.
These updates to YouTube’s search feature emerge in the midst of ongoing controversy around the platform’s search algorithm. Last month, Mozilla published research suggesting that YouTube’s algorithm continued to promote “bottom-feeding” content. Mozilla crowd-sourced data from participants who used a browser extension called RegretsReporter, which asks users to self-report YouTube videos they wish they didn’t watch. Mozilla found that YouTube regrets were 60% higher in countries where English isn’t the primary language. Still, a representative from YouTube said that features that might potentially mitigate this — for example, recommending foreign videos with local language captions — were not developed in response to the Mozilla report.
“Our teams have been working on these features for months with the goal of helping users find what they’re looking for, from how-tos to DIYs,” a spokesperson from YouTube said.