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YouTube gets a makeover

The new layout focuses strongly on social media integration and links to users' Google+ and Facebook accounts.

Google's video sharing platform, YouTube, has been given a major facelift with a new homepage, channel design and user interface.

According to the official blog post from Google, the new homepage is designed to make it easier for users to find and follow channels.

A new left-hand panel features direct connections to the user's Google+ and Facebook profiles.

“You can browse recommended channels; customise your homepage's feed; even link your YouTube account to Google+ and Facebook to see what your friends are sharing,” says Google.

Speaking of the channel redesign, Google says: “As different uploaders have different goals, we've created new channel templates to meet your needs whether you produce one video a week or have thousands of videos for a fan to browse.”

The overall design of the site has also been tweaked, and Google says it is cleaner and simpler than before with a grey background, bigger video thumbnails and a “more streamlined” watch page.

“In July, we unveiled an experimental design called Cosmic Panda. We've used your feedback to improve our overall design,” says Google.

An instruction manual is available on the site to help users navigate the new design and functionality of the site.

Social focus

Social media steps into the spotlight with the redesign and reflects Google's ambition to have a unified social layer across all of its services. Once signed in, the middle panel of YouTube becomes a video-activity feed or stream, not dissimilar to Google+ or Facebook.

Using the tabs on the left-hand navigation bar, users can define what appears in their central feed. Connecting other social media accounts to the new YouTube site is opt-in and can be managed through specific privacy settings.

While YouTube hasn't revealed any details about the algorithm it uses to serve up recommended channels and videos, it appears to be based on previous user activity – but to a higher degree than before.

While the redesign was only unveiled yesterday, some users have already expressed strong opposition to the changes.

Resistance to change

In the comments below the YouTube video introducing the changes, one user wrote:

“THUMBS UP if you wish YouTube would give users a choice on whether or not they can see the new layout. Since the YOU in YOUtube is no longer about YOU, raise your voice high and request an 'opt-out' function until you are ready to join in on the new layout.

“The direct action of forcing users to use the new layout and not give its users a choice on the matter shows a direct and blatant disregard for the individuals who give YouTube its popularity in the first place.”

The video, which at the time of writing had just 310 views, already had over 5 000 'dislikes'.

Another user wrote: “Let's take YOUTUBE and turn it into myspace FAIL. This is not a social networking site.”

Others were more positive: “This is a free service and sometimes you can actually make money on here. Quit whining and get over yourself. It looks better and NO MORE WHITE BACKGROUND OF HELL! YAY! I think I like the new design!”

“It's funny how 2.5 years ago, people hated the 2nd design, & wanted to go back to the 1st. Now they hate the 3rd design & want to go back to the 2nd! I'd wager that the same thing will happen in another 2.5 years.”

Bigger picture

Recently, YouTube also announced it would add the “Merch Store” that allows its music partners to sell event tickets, merchandise and digital content via their video channels.

In Google's third-quarter earnings report, it was stated that 800 million people currently visit YouTube per month. Statistics released earlier this year also indicated the video sharing site was seeing three billion video views per day.

Since acquiring YouTube five years ago, Google has struggled to turn the service's popularity into profitability.

In July this year, Google CEO Larry Page said during the company's second-quarter results presentation that YouTube still required more investment in order to be profitable.

As a result, Google has been implementing changes that have slowly been shifting YouTube from being a Web site to a more extensive ecosystem.

Last month, Google introduced simple video editing features in order to allow users to customise videos within YouTube. Earlier this year, an on-demand movie service was also launched by Google, through partnerships with Time Warner, Comcast, Sony and Lions Gate.


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