Inside YouTube’s TestTube

/ Aug 22, 2013

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Google’s legendary 20 percent time is maybe in decline these days, but that doesn’t mean that YouTube has given up on experimentation. And there’s an immediate place to discover that — YouTube’s TestTube, which features experimental projects in the works at San Bruno HQ (and also elsewhere). Below, this reporter boldly explores the tools made available. And lives!

MoodWall

MoodWall is an interesting experiment in curation, creating a Pinterest-esque wall of recommendations based on your interest in various keywords, such as “Hilarious,” “Touching,” “Fail,” or “Scary.” The bold colorful interface was fun to play with, and I did find a couple of videos that were new and interesting enough to warrant a click.

The only flaw I found in MoodWall? Many of the curated entries were, to put it politely, a little geriatric. For example, under “Cool” was a recommendation for Judson Laipply’s “Evolution of Dance”. “Evolution of Dance” is famous as one of the most over-played videos of all time — making it pretty much the exact opposite of cool.

HTML5

I opted into the HTML5 option. At least on my humble laptop, I noticed no real effect on my YouTubing — videos played exactly the same as before. Which I guess is a good thing, but I weirdly feel betrayed.

YouTube Music Discovery

This particular project promises that users might “Make playlists and discover new artists and music videos.” The first thing I’m asked is to pick an artist or song; on a whim, I type in “Daft Punk,” and find myself listening to “Get Lucky,” which is never a bad thing, but also not exactly rocket science.

The other tracks made available via playlist are all other classic Daft Punk tunes like “Around the World” and “One More Time”; when compared to Spotify and Pandora, it’s clear that this is not going to replace other music recommendation engines.

As a secondary test, I decide to see what the app does with the search phrase “heartbeats,” which happens to be the title of one of my favorite Jose Gonzalez songs.

This search takes me to the Jose Gonzalez cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” — which is, to the app’s credit, something I didn’t know existed before now. But, discovery-wise, this is still behind the other apps in the space.

Feather

This “lightweight” version of YouTube, much like the HTML5 player, had no noticeable effect on my video viewing — except that there were no recommended videos in the sidebar, just a reminder that I was in beta mode. Honestly? It was kind of a relief.

Video Questions Editor

I tested this out on a video, and it did in fact create a video question on my video. But without an end-time, it wasn’t very effective as an engagement tool, and I ended up having to delete it.

Still, like everything else available, it’s still exciting to see how formats are adapting, systems are shifting, and YouTube deciding exactly what kind of company it’s going to be.

The company that favors experimentation? That’s the company I’m most interested in following.

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