Tag Archives | YouTube

YouTube Gets an Android Remote With One Neat Feature

Google’s YouTube Remote app for Android might ease the pain of changing the channel on web video, so to speak.

The free app controls YouTube Leanback on the desktop or on Google TV. Once synced by user account on both devices, the app can play, pause, rewind, fast forward and adjust volume on YouTube clips. But the killer feature, I think, is the ability to find new videos or add them to a queue.

Back when I subscribed to cable, changing channels was the most inelegant part of the experience. You press the “guide” button, and your picture becomes a thumbnail, surrounded by a wall of programming information. Because this is so distracting, you’re under pressure — from your family or whoever else is watching — to find a new channel as quickly as possible so you can get back to the big screen.

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SpeakerText: Search and Share Your Favorite Video Snippets

David Spark is a veteran tech journalist who’s been covering the TechCrunch Disrupt conference for Yammer. Check out more of Spark’s coverage on Yammer’s blog.

I’ve always felt that the failure of video online has been its lack of visibility. Over the past few years there have been a variety of techniques deployed to search and discover video. But generally, all the content that’s available to search is the title, tags, and description of the video. Some sites have tried to crowdsource the problem with visitors tagging videos. And others have tried to solve this problem through transcription of videos, such as Fora.tv. It’s a good solution for spoken word videos, but it fell short because the solution is isolated to one specific site and service. Everyzing (now Ramp) did an excellent job of transcribing audio and video content but it didn’t make it easy to share.

At TechCrunch Disrupt I saw SpeakerText, a far more useful “anybody can use” tool for video transcription and search that’s well integrated with social media. SpeakerText is a paid plugin that will currently transcribe your YouTube, Blip.tv, WordPress, Ooyala, and Brightcove videos and sync them with the content in the video, making it searchable via the text. Again, it’s only really good for spoken-word videos, but what I found most valuable is the ability to highlight a piece of text and share it via Twitter. When you do, it creates a shortened URL that goes directly to that portion in the video where the highlighted text is spoken. Watch the demo with SpeakerText’s founder, Matt Mireles.

Shameless plug: Enter Yammer’s “Workplace Communications Horror Story!” Sweepstakes for a chance to win a free iPad. Deadline is October 15th, 2010.

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YouTube's On-Again, Off-Again Relationship With Premium

Let’s play a game. Go to YouTube’s home page and try to find the premium content — the movies and television shows from big studios — without resorting to search. Come back here once you’ve given up.

A year ago, getting to that content was a lot easier. YouTube’s home page had a “Shows” tab that took you directly to a page filled with professionally-produced episodes and clips. The top of the page, as captured in July 2009 by the Wayback Machine, promoted clips from Jimmy Kimmel Live, manga from Funimation and full episodes of the Larry Sanders Show. Down below were clips from ABC’s World News With Charlie Gibson, and cooking tutorials from the New York Times.

YouTube’s “Shows” page still exists, but the emphasis on big stars and major media companies is gone. More importantly, you can’t get to this page directly from YouTube’s homepage. The latest redesign, launched at the end of March, removed a lot of clutter, but also returned prominence to the user-generated content for which the site is best-known.

With all that in mind, I wonder what YouTube will look like if it begins selling pay-per-view movies from major Hollywood studios. Financial Times says Google negotiating with studios to stream feature films at the same time as their release on DVD (same as iTunes and Amazon), and hopes to have deals in place by the end of the year.

It’s easy to see why Google would want YouTube to stream major motion pictures. A cut of each sale would provide revenue, and the timing would fit nicely with the launch of Google TV. But the shifting on YouTube’s home page between user-generated and premium content only points out how difficult it is to juggle both in one place. I just can’t imagine a big block of feature films being hawked alongside make-up tutorials and “Drive-By Pooping.”

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YouTube Upload Limit Bumped to 15 Minutes

User-made YouTube videos have been limited to 10 minutes almost since the beginning, but now YouTube is ready to give people 15 minutes per video instead.

YouTube says its Content ID system makes the extra five minutes possible. With all major movie studios and music labels using Content ID to sniff out copyrighted material, and the technology improved enough, YouTube can afford to relax the upload limit, which was introduced to keep pirated television shows and movies off the site. Content partners, such as CBS, have always been able to upload longer videos, including full-length television shows and feature films.

The contrarian in me wants to lament the boosted upload limit. There’s something to be said for concision, and users might lose some editorial discipline with an extra five minutes to spare. But overall I’m happy to see YouTube raise the limit to 15 minutes. The number of videos that will benefit from the extra time — video game walkthroughs, homespun sitcoms, how-to videos and otherwise fascinating raw footage — probably outweigh the ones that would wear our their welcome.

Now, I’m just wondering two things: When will the upload limit increase again, and why not extend it to 20 minutes right now? Product Manager Joshua Siegel didn’t give the most satisfying answer on YouTube’s blog, saying only that the site will do everything it can to release incremental improvements in the future. Maybe the content partners aren’t totally comfortable with user-made videos that match the length of a commercial-free television show, or perhaps YouTube fears the bandwidth demands a 20-minute limit may bring.

Whatever the case, it’s a good sign that YouTube’s moving beyond the upload limit it put in place four years ago. Any bets on when YouTube will allow two-hour feature films from its users?


Google Gets Snakey in YouTube Easter Egg

As if watching YouTube wasn’t already a good way to procrastinate, now you can play Snake right inside many of YouTube’s videos.

YouTube user BikdipOnABus gets credit for documenting the Easter Egg, whose simplicity is astounding: On videos with the new playback style (the one with the thick red progress bar that narrows when you move the mouse away from it), click on the video window, then hold left on your keyboard. The video can be paused or playing when you do this.

To try it yourself, I recommend the YouTube video of a plain black screen, which should become pretty popular with this discovery.

YouTube Snake is not a particularly good version of the classic dot-eating game. I’m actually partial to Gmail’s take, which you can activate in Gmail Labs and play by typing “&” on the main screen, as long as you have keyboard shortcuts enabled. Unlike the YouTube version, Gmail’s “Old Snakey” saves high scores, has obstacles and speeds up as your snake gobbles more pellets.

Still, YouTube Snake is worth keeping in mind next time you’re watching something that drags on, but isn’t quite boring enough to stop watching entirely. I won’t read into it much further than that — I already had my fun interpreting Google Pac-Man — though it is interesting how the occasional game has cropped up on YouTube lately.

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YouTube Leanback: YouTube That Looks Like TV

The average American watches five hours of TV a day. For YouTube, it’s more like five minutes–a fact which the folks at YouTube don’t like a bit. They think is due to it being too hard to consumer their service in mass quantities. So they’re launching a new service–which the company showed as a sneak peek back at Google’s I|O conference in May–called YouTube Leanback. (Yup, this is YouTube’s second new version of the day: I saw it and the new YouTube Mobile at a press briefing this morning.)

Leanback is an expansion of the basic idea in an earlier service called YouTube XL. It runs in any browser that supports Flash–iPads need not apply–and is designed to make watching YouTube feel a bit like watching a personalized TV channel with a really slick program guide that can be controlled by keyboard. Videos display in full-screen mode, and you press the Up Arrow key to search and the Down Arrow key to reach playback controls, a feed of videos tailored to your interests (which are search results if you’ve just searched) and a browsable directory of videos in major categories.

Unlike the revamped YouTube Mobile, Leanback isn’t trying to give you all the power of standard YouTube in a new format. It’s YouTube stripped down to its bare essentials, and judging from my brief hands-on time with it so far, it’s pretty nifty. Folks who have connected a PC to an HDTV will obviously be intrigued by Leanback–and it will run on Google TV devices once they’re available–but YouTube execs at the briefing said they think people who watch the service on a laptop or desktop PC display will like it, too.

Here’s YouTube’s video demo of Leanback–if you try the service, let us know what you think.


The Best Mobile Version of YouTube is Now YouTube, Not an App

YouTube is launching a new version of its mobile site today for HTML5-capable smartphones such as the iPhone and Android handsets. I saw a demonstration at a press briefing this morning, and it looked like the most YouTubey mobile version of YouTube to date, with most of the major features of the full-blown version of the service, playback of videos within the browser (rather than in an external media player) [CORRECTION: I got the previous point wrong], and higher-quality video than is currently provided by the YouTube apps for iPhone and Android. Judging from the demo, it’s extremely snappy for a Web-based app–screens popped up as quickly as they would in a local application.

It also has a user interface that’s designed to be as touch-friendly as possible, without demanding the user to poke at the screen very precisely–Product Manager Andrey Doronichev even conducted part of this morning’s demo using…his nose.

The new YouTube Mobile looks cool, but it’s most interesting as a salvo in the war between local apps (a form of software championed by Apple) and Web-based ones (Google’s bread and butter). When Google writes iPhone apps–like, say, Google Voice–it’s at the mercy of Apple. When it creates browser-based services, it doesn’t need to seek anyone’s permission to distribute them to every iPhone user who cares to give them a try. And with YouTube, at least, it looks like there’s no particular advantage to writing an iPhone app–the Web-based incarnation works at least as well as a piece of native software would.

Even if the unique challenges of getting into the iPhone App Store weren’t an issue, there’s much to be said for YouTube being a Web app rather than a local one. With a Web app, YouTube can roll out new features on as aggressive a schedule as it chooses, instantly putting them in the hands of everyone who uses the service. It can’t do that with the YouTube app for Android, and the one for iPhone is completely out of its hands, since it was written by Apple. (For what it’s worth, a YouTube exec at the briefing I attended said he hopes Apple continues to update its YouTube app, and that YouTube would be happy to help.)

You gotta wonder: How long will it be until Web apps are capable of doing nearly anything a local app can? It’s not going to happen in 2010, 2011, or 2012…but it will happen.

Here’s YouTube’s blog post on the new YouTube Mobile. One surprising note: The company says that it hasn’t finished polishing up the service to work well in Safari on the iPhone 4.


Rise of the YouTube Video Games?

YouTube is a wonderful promotional tool for video games, among other things, but as a gaming platform itself? A couple creative examples show that it’s possible.

To promote both the Chrome Web browser and Adobe Flash, which is now integrated into the browser, Google put together Chrome Fastball. It’s a set of simple mind games using APIs from other websites, all strung together by video clips of a Rube Goldberg device. So, at one point you must answer a trivia question on Twitter (anonymously), and at another point choose the best way to travel between two points on a map. Each successful answer moves your ball along the contraption towards the finish line. It’s a cute little game that actually works just fine in other browsers, too.

The funny thing is, Chrome Fastball isn’t the only YouTube game I played today. To celebrate the premiere of Twilight: Eclipse, Benny and Rafi Fine created Twlight Eclipse: The 8-Bit Interactive Game. This series of YouTube videos is actually a choose-your-adventure with NES-style animations and audio. At the end of each clip, players must make decisions that send them on multiple branching paths. It’s a nice way to waste an afternoon even if you’re not into young adult vampire drama (I still can’t believe that’s a genre).

Obviously, YouTube can’t have full-blown games with controllable avatars, because it just wouldn’t be YouTube anymore at that point. But there’s potential to do some clever things with the interactivity YouTube does allow, as these games show.

One last note: Both games back up Google’s point that Flash is still relevant; neither one works on the iPhone’s HTML 5 version of YouTube.