Since the unveiling of Google’s new Material Design language last year at Google’s I/O event, there has been a progressive change in the look and feel of Google’s software and services. Unlike Google’s former design language, Holo, which was specifically created for Android, Google promised us that material design would be adopted across all of their offerings from Android, to Chrome OS, Android Wear, Android Auto, Android TV, and their web apps and services. The announcement of material design embarked Google on the ambitious and painstaking journey to unify all of their disparate software under one cohesive banner. The most innovative aspect of material design is not simply its look and function. Although undoubtedly beautiful, material design’s ability to be scaled across so many realms is its true crowning achievement. One year later, Google is still busily updating and refining their software to neatly fit into the material design language; unlike previous promises to improve the cohesiveness of Google’s user experience the company is actually following through. The latest service to receive a make-over is the YouTube desktop player, which takes inspiration from the YouTube app. In typical Google fashion, they are selectively rolling out the new player to some users before a widespread launch.
The new player features transparent controls over the top of the video that disappear when inactive, much like the controls and progress bar found on mobile. These new controls annex the opaque black bar found underneath videos that we have grown used to for years (see gallery below). The new design gives more space for the video to shine through, which is certainly a welcome improvement. The progress bar is now also thinner and expands to make seeking to a particular point in the video much easier; overall it looks much more modern and refined. Settings accessed via the cog in the lower right-hand corner, have also been updated (see gallery below). Toggles for autoplay and annotations are now rounded to fit the material aesthetic, and speed and quality dropdown menus resemble their mobile counterparts. Another notable aspect of the new player is the omission of the “watch later” button from the player’s controls, however, this feature is still accessible via the “Add to” menu found above a video’s description. While we can’t say with confidence that the button is being removed because the new player is still in testing, Google’s choice to test the service without the button is interesting regardless.
The color scheme of the icons and controls are much brighter and have greater contrast than the old player. Everything is bright white, red, and transparent black rather than the dull grays and red found on the previous version. The icons have also been redesigned with a modern, bolder look and appear to be slightly larger making them more prominent when active. All said, the new player is much more appealing from a visual standpoint; it is far more vivid, clear, and refined. The way all the controls and menus appear to be floating give it a futuristic appeal, much like the floating action buttons prominently featured in material design. While we have no idea when the new player will be featured on a larger scale it is possible to try it out for yourself. To do so you will have to change the value of the YouTube cookie VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE to Q06SngRDTGA. Chrome users can simply install the EditThisCookie extension from the Chrome Web Store in order to change this cookie’s value (see gallery below). Make sure the English (US) interface is also enabled (accessible via the menu at the bottom of the settings page).