The largest social network in the world has a gold mine waiting to be explored – videos. Although YouTube is the king of online video, in just 2 years Facebook has surpassed Google’s service on desktop in video views on desktops in the U.S. However, this experience is still very “crude” for users. On YouTube you have dedicated channels, playlists, “watch later”, a floating player so you can keep navigating the network on mobile, video suggestions to help you find nice videos to watch and, most important, the ability to monetize on your content. Facebook didn’t have any of that, until now, as the company has just made an announcement signaling it is going after YouTube, with the same features already being tested among users.
After noticing the importance of video, the company has been working hard to improve this experience on the platform, having introduced auto-play videos a year ago, live video for public figures in August and 360 videos in September. If you also have an iOS device, you may have already noticed that after tapping on a video in the news feed on your mobile, there will be a list of suggested videos. Discovering video is still a pain, as you have to scroll through your newsfeed in order to get content. This is being solved with the addition of a dedicated video tab on the iPhone app and desktop, allowing you to see both previously saved video and suggestions based on your interests from friends, Pages, and other publishers. Another cool feature introduced last month and highlighted in the press release is a floating mini-video player, just like YouTube’s, which allows you to keep browsing the News Feed (or the Video hub) while watching a video. Facebook still doesn’t make money from the billions of views their videos are generating, and the company is starting to test ads on video for some users.
Although YouTube has a higher user base, Facebook is in great advantage because it knows a lot more about its users. Also, the social network app is the most used mobile application by far and users access them several times per day to check for likes, comments and updates from friends, making it easier to capture users attention from video. YouTube is not going away, of course, and it will be interesting to see how Google is going to deal with this aggressive and powerful competition. As said before, these features are being tested with a small number of users on the iPhone and will be rolling out to Android users in the coming months.