YouTube Launches XL: Browser-Based TV

Update: Video demo and analysis in a new post. YouTube XL: The Living Room Remodel Gets Delayed.

YouTube today is launching XL, a new interface for the site that is customized for televisions. Rather than a downloadable app for lean-back viewing, like Hulu just launched (though Hulu forbids use on anything other than a laptop), YouTube is choosing to go all browser, no plug-in required. Just go to youtube.com/xl.

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The AJAX-powered UI expands to any size window and features full-screen mode. HD video looks pretty great. You can use your Android phone on the same Wi-Fi network as a remote, or a wireless keyboard. A continuous play feature automatically queues up playlists or search terms. It doesn’t yet feature any ads.

XL, which had previously been beta-released as YouTube TV, will give access to almost all YouTube content, but not some premium content. That’s for the same reasons as why Hulu, whose content is all from premium outlets, can’t explicitly enable viewers to watch in the living room: rights holders don’t want to compete with TV because their existing business models depend on it.

“I want to remind you guys that this works in all modern browsers, even IE,” Kuan Yong, product manager for YouTube platforms, told a group of reporters gathered at YouTube’s San Bruno, Calif., headquarters today. “This is all happening in the browser.”

Yong said YouTube has discontinued making deals with TV manufacturers, as it did last year, because that required making custom versions of the site, something that was not “scalable.” However, he admitted that it’s likely to be two to three years at least before browser-enabled TVs are pervasive. Today you can hook up a computer to display on your TV or use your PS3 or Wii browsers, as Yong demonstrated.

XL does not feature YouTube’s social features, such as commenting. “XL is really when you just want to watch video; it’s not really a social experience,” said Yong. “Maybe it’s just you and the couch and a pint of ice cream.”

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