While YouTube comments have long been the chaotic and unheeding scourge of the internet, the company still appears confident its users can have civil conversations about online video. Starting today, a new chat feature called native sharing is available for a small subset of YouTube users, according to a report from Wired. It lets you converse with others via text, photos, and links inside the YouTube mobile app. You can even share a video with friends and chat about it directly. Those who have the feature can gift it to others by inviting them to conversations, while those threads will reside in a new tab on the app.
You may be thinking, "What does YouTube want with a messaging feature, and who will even use it?" Those are good questions. The company thinks that it can increase the amount of videos its users share with others if it lets them do so natively, inside the app itself. Considering the enormous resources being pumped into video by inherently social companies like Facebook and Snapchat, this is more of a defensive move than anything else. (Amazon is gunning for YouTube, too, and yesterday launched a competing upload service called Amazon Video Direct.) YouTube wants internet users to think of its app as a destination they can spend time in, and not just a place they pop in and out of with a link when they're looking for something specific.
YouTube wants users to think of its app as a destination they can spend time in
Of course, Google has long had a troubled history wth social. Back in 2013, it tried to use an integration feature for its floundering Google+ social network to tame the beast that is YouTube comments, only to admit the initiative failed when it began divorcing Google+ from other company services last year. Google+'s problems have always been bigger than its inability to fix YouTube comments. Yet the decoupling there meant conversation threads on YouTube videos regressed more or less to their previous form, albeit now with a more robust voting system. Luckily, native sharing is meant to be a private messaging feature you enjoy only with friends, and not strangers on the internet. So not all hope is lost.