Earlier today, YouTube launched a new mobile experience, using HTML5 to deliver a mobile site with better video quality and (soon) more content than the native YouTube iPhone app (and it works on other phones as well. intelligent). But they are not finished. Tonight, the video portal is also launching YouTube Leanback, a version of YouTube optimized for watching content on your TV or when you’re sitting a few feet away from your desktop computer. In short, it’s YouTube TV.
Leanback was first previewed on Google I / O and will be integrated with Google TV when it launches this fall. The product evolved from YouTube XL, which launched in June 2009. The XL interface was cleaner than the standard YouTube site and was easier to use from a distance, but it did not provide a natural experience for couch surfers. LeanBack changes that.
Head over to Youtube.com/leanback, and the site will immediately start playing videos from a suggestion feed, based on other videos you’ve liked (if you’re not signed in, it will start playing play the currently most popular videos on the site). To go to the next video in the playlist, you press the right arrow on your keyboard. Want to navigate to a different kind of clips? Press the down arrow and you will be able to scroll through other content channels. Press the up arrow to display a search option.
In other words, the interface is really simple. Give the keyboard to someone sitting on a couch and they’ll probably be able to pick up the basics in seconds. And once they land on a channel of their choice, they will be able to watch an endless stream of content – Leanback will continue to play recommended videos indefinitely, just like a cable channel.
This is all part of YouTube’s goal to drive engagement – the site obviously sees a huge volume of downloads and traffic, but it gets around 15 minutes of viewing per day per user. This contrasts with the five hours of television that people watch on average every day.
Of course, there’s the question of whether people will actually start using Leanback – after all, most people aren’t using a home theater PC yet, and Google TV is still a few months away. YouTube’s Julian Frumar, who led the design for Leanback, says the team wants to track how people use the product so they can test their hypotheses before Google TV launches. The team also notes that Leanback isn’t just for watching TV – the site works great from your desktop or laptop, and offers a great experience for those times when you just want to watch YouTube clips. without making a lot of choices.
Rentals aren’t live for Leanback yet, but the YouTube team says it’s due to a technical issue, not a licensing issue, and that they hope to offer rentals in the next few weeks. And yes, the ads will eventually find their way into Leanback as well.