Google's continuing to refine the way YouTube works, and the latest move echoes something I hinted at yesterday: YouTube is becoming a social net. It now has a tie-up with Facebook so you can see what vids your friends are watching.
YouTube has long had its own friending network for logged-in users, but it's not really gained much traction, and the "Recent Activity" window for your friends will have been empty for most logged-in users who never befriended anyone (and probably only had a YouTube account to gain access to the firewalled adult content anyway.) But the powers that be at Google are wise to the explosive social networking phenomenon, and have decided that the best way to proceed is to tap into the social status sharing powers of Facebook instead.
From yesterday there's now an opt-in scheme for YouTube members that lets you see what YouTube clips your Facebook friends are sharing. For sure, you can just do this by looking at your Facebook newsfeed in Facebook itself, but that requires picking the videos out of all the other nonsense that the newsfeed contains. If you're up for a whiling away casual lunchtime chortling at the same clips of cats falling into boxes that your pals are viewing, then the new system would seem ideal.
That seems like I'm pooh-poohing the whole idea, but actually there are some bigger implications of this move. Firstly there's a whole massive pile of YouTube sharing going on on Facebook—the company notes up to 46 years worth of footage are watched via Facebook links every day. If YouTube can attract all these people to its own site for preference, then it'll be able to sell them advertising more efficiently. It's also a signifier that Google really wants YouTube to capture the role of the on-demand TV channel for Web users—by injecting a social element into the mix, it's trying to turn YouTube into a more complete experience...a little like the idea behind live Twitterfeeds on regular TV.
And finally, it's another sign that Google is admitting it can't do social networking/lifecasting by itself, so it's co-opting the successful competition in to the system. In this case it's Facebook, which no one would deny rules the social network world, but previously it was Twitter's live Tweet feed which really adds a sense of real time urgency into Google's new real time search powers. To be honest, the Twitter tie-up really was better for Twitter than Google, whereas you can almost see the Facebook tie-up as being bad for Facebook...
But the significance is still there: Google, giant mega-machine that tries to do everything, is beginning to admit that actually it's not good at everything. Quite a promising sign for a better, smarter Google in the future.
[Via The Wall Street Journal]