YouTube (s GOOG) is rolling out one of its most ambitious redesigns since its launch in 2006 this Thursday afternoon, putting channels front and center in an attempt to become the Internet’s answer to cable TV. The new design features a completely revamped home page that focuses on a user’s video subscriptions and pulls in video recommendations from social networks like Facebook and Google+.
The pages of video publishers are also getting a significant face lift, emphasizing the notion of subscribing to channels and focusing more on filtering and curation. “Curators are going to be be really great for organizing this massive amount of content that YouTube has,” said the site’s channels product manager A.J Crane.
This focus on channels is part of YouTube’s attempt to evolve from a site that is on average frequented for 15 minutes a day to a destination that invites users to watch for hours. It also ties in with its recently announced professional content initiative that will bring around 100 new channels from celebrities like Madonna and Tony Hawk as well as prominent YouTube stars like The Young Turk’s Cenk Uygur to the site in the coming months.
Some of the highlights of the new design include:
- The overall design is closely aligned with the visual changes on other Google properties, including Google+ and GMail.
- The home page features a kind of activity stream that includes video uploads, likes and favorites, comments as well as announcements for upcoming live events.
- Users can pin up to ten of their favorite channels on YouTube’s homepage, giving them easier access to uploads and video recommendations posted on those channels.
- A new Favicon in the form of a play button replaces the stacked YouTube logo.
- Registered users will be able to choose from four default templates for their own channel pages, with individual templates appealing to the needs of avid YouTube networkers, creators who simply want to showcase their best work through playlists or video bloggers with a lot of output that will be arranged in reverse chronological order.
- Video pages now feature a grey background that is supposed to be less distracting that the site’s previous use of bright white.
These changes are expected to go live to all users at 2pm PT, and YouTube is offering a detailed look at all of the new features here.
The focus on channels and the homepage is also YouTube’s answer to the rise of third-party curation through platforms like Facebook and Twitter. YouTube has been clocking around 200 million visitors to its old home page every day, but the site recently announced that it is seeing 3.5 billion video views every single day. That means that most of YouTube’s traffic isn’t coming through YouTube’s homepage, which entails the danger that people quickly jump off after watching a single clip.
YouTube VP of Product Development Shishir Mehrotra emphasized on Thursday that this was just a first wave of changes across YouTube’s properties. “We are just geting started,” he said. Up next are changes to YouTube’s mobile apps and sites as well as efforts to bring this channel-centric approach to connected devices. YouTube representatives also hinted at further personalization options for channel content, which would presumably work in conjunction with Google+, as well as the ability to view private and unlisted videos shared with you within your homepage’s activity stream.
One of the platforms that will see some of the new channel-centric approach next is the Xbox, where the launch of a new UI for YouTube is imminent. “Any of the channels on YouTube may be a great channel on TV,” said YouTube Group Product Manager Shiva Rajaraman, and Mehrotra went on to predict that distinctions between traditional TV channels and YouTube content channels would eventually become irrelevant. “This term of online video is about to disappear,” he said.