YouTube’s Unlisted Feature Booms Thanks to Families, Teachers and Nike

Since launching a month ago, YouTube’s (s GOOG) unlisted videos feature has experienced exponential growth, as people take advantage of the ability to share videos without officially making them public.

As seen in the graph below, while use of the private sharing feature remains steady, unlisted videos have climbed dramatically since the feature’s debut on May 12. The number of videos actually shared was unavailable, but the upswing clearly indicates how usage of the feature is taking off.

Just because a video is unlisted, however, doesn’t mean it can’t rack up views. Nike’s three-minute Write The Future spot, playing on World Cup Fever, was initially unlisted so that Nike could see what kind of traffic it could generate via word of mouth and viral means. It was switched from unlisted to public once it reached three million views, and is now currently at over 15 million.

One important note: If your YouTube account is not “in good standing,” according to the feature’s FAQ, you’ll be unable to set a video as unlisted. That means if you’ve ever posted a video flagged for copyright infringement or been flagged for violating community guidelines, the feature will be unavailable to you — an oddly punitive measure.

According to YouTube product manager Brian Glick, with whom I met last week at YouTube HQ, one group that the unlisted feature has become popular with is teachers who want to have students use YouTube for assignments, but don’t want their privacy to be put at risk. Essentially, finding a middle ground between completely private and completely public seems to be paying off.

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