YouTube announced last night that all new signups on the site will require a Google account. The move comes as part of an industry-wide shift towards better authentication for online video watching, but it won’t drastically change user experience on the site.
It makes sense to more closely link people’s real-world identities to their activities on YouTube as its allows advertising to be better targeted and accounted for. It also make sense to integrate YouTube and Google (s GOOG), given they’ve been the same company for two-and-a-half years now.
We’ve suggested in the past that YouTube should actually link up with Facebook accounts, since they’re even more closely linked with users’ real-world identities and social activities online. (Google accounts are great and all, but what do Google Docs really have to do with the latest Fred episode? Whereas Facebook accounts enable cool new applications like live conversations while watching CNN’s streaming of the Obama Inauguration.)
Under this YouTube account system, new YouTube users have the option of creating a new Google Account or linking to an old one; they can also choose a different YouTube display name. In our experience, Google accounts are more often associated with people’s real names, because they correspond to their email accounts, while YouTube usernames tend to be silly and cryptic monikers.
YouTube also warned existing account holders that they will have to link up their Google Accounts to enable new features in the future.
However, you can still watch as much video as you want on the site without logging in.
Authentication is an increasingly important issue in online video, with cable providers plotting to link up TV subscriptions and online video viewing. Knowing who your viewers are will be an important part of any media business model going forward.