Almost immediately after its 2005 launch, YouTube became synonymous with online video. And as countless would-be rivals have come and gone, it’s stayed that way.
But now, the company is adding Community, a set of tools for posting text, photos, GIFs, and other elements. They don’t amount to an attempt to become a general-purpose social network. At the moment, they’re available only to a dozen top YouTube stars, and are designed to buttress the service’s dominance in video by letting creators mingle with their fans using media other than video—without having to depart for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat.
I spent time talking to YouTube execs and some of the creators who helped shape the new features for a deep dive into how (and why) the service is broadening its horizons.