Sunday, June 13, 2010

10 Killer Improvements YouTube Needs

YouTube's recent new look has brought on some great usability improvements, and their adoption of VP8/WebM video codec/format released by Google is even better. Still, there is much more to be done to increase YouTube's openness, foster a respectable community, more fairly promote quality content, fill the remaining gaps of missing features, and further improve and clean up the interface.
  1. Do not be like MySpace
    • Nobody misses that atrocious monstrosity. Firstly, do not push this "new" bulletins feature back out. Spamming is not a feature. 
    • Secondly, stop covering the homepage with advertising, especially all the deceptive sponsored content with fake video players, "close" buttons, and other misleading imagery. If more ads are needed, the partner program shouldn't be so exclusive (mentioned below). Take a look at this screenshot of a common occurrence, labeled with YouTube's #1 most popular comment, which leads us to the next idea. 
  2. Fix commenting
    • Promote better comments through a cleaner user interface. YouTube has improved slowly since being acquired, but still isn't what would be expected from Google. Site designs that waste space and don't make efficient use of screen real estate encourage short mindless posts. 
    • Repeated comments could be filtered based on their length and uniqueness in the same vein as ROBOT9000. Short and common posts like "GAY" could be prevented entirely or at least made very inconvenient by requiring a captcha and displaying a prominent warning. Perhaps a minimum comment length should be adopted, at least temporarily. 
    • Posting URLs should be allowed, but requiring a captcha would prevent spam. 
  3. Specify copyright
    • Allow publishers to specify their level of copyright with licenses like Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike (CC-BY-SA), GNU FDL, Kopimi, Creative Commons Zero (CC0), which is a "stronger" Public Domain dedication that functions even in countries without a public domain, etc. 
    • Allow us to search for such videos by what we want to be able to do with them: share, remix, and/or use for commercial purposes
    • Provide a directory of music for publishers to use in their videos, perhaps partnering with Jamendo
  4. Sensible accounts, contacts, and messaging
    • Now that YouTube uses Google Accounts, there is no excuse to separate channels and users. The current system is like if Blogger limited a each account to one blog. One should be able to have multiple channels and channels should support multiple admins. Another Google Account shouldn't be needed to create another channel for a different purpose.
    • It is entirely redundant to import contacts from GMail instead of simply using Google Contacts to begin with. 
    • At the very least, YouTube's messaging interface needs to be fixed and cleaned up. It might even be better off eliminated. Neither Blogger or Picasa Web Albums have a special messaging interface, and YouTube's inbox seems to mainly collect spam. Instead, a contact form could be used much like on Google Profiles. 
  5. Automate featured videos
    • Replace the hand-picked "featured videos" system with something automated. Featured videos are unfair, impractical, and against the Google way. You can do much better to promote quality content from lesser-known YouTubers with algorithms.
  6. Expand monetization
    • Let viewers easily donate to producers they like on YouTube using Google Checkout without forcing them to pay to download or rent the video. This will be especially useful for free culture works or anyone using the pay-what-you-want model.
    • Most people who apply to for the YouTube Partner Program get an email which opens with this: "Thank you for your interest in the YouTube Partner Program. Our goal is to extend invitations to as many partners as we can. Unfortunately we are unable to accept your application at this time. The current level of viewership of your account has not met our threshold for acceptance." If YouTube really wanted to extend this program to as many partners as possible, why is there even a viewership threshold? Anybody eligible for an AdSense account should be able to make money off of ads displayed with their videos. It's mutually beneficial. 
  7. Live streaming
    • YouTube has done a few live video streams for the past couple years but it hasn't been a standard feature available to anyone. It looks like that might finally change as an image on the Moderator help page shows a "Live Stream" button at the end of the bar (not the circled button towards the middle). When this feature become available, it would be cool to be able to broadcast to YouTube live from Jabber (Google Talk) with a video call. 
  8. Downloads and video blogging
    • If a publisher wants to allow free video downloads, this should be allowed. For videos where downloading is allowed, they should be available to download in WebM but also whatever the original file was. 
    • Viewers should be able to subscribe to channels using RSS and Atom feeds like blogger. These should be easily accessed instead of requiring any special knowledge of how to find them.
    • Video files should be linked to directly as enclosures in channel feeds to enable proper video blogging. I understand YouTube may begin allowing audio uploads, so this would be an absolute must for podcasts, but it should be added now for videos to enable videocasts that can be listed on Miro for example.
    • If Blogger's reading list could by moved to Google Reader or some independent social subscription management site, then YouTube subscriptions might be better moved there so that people could follow channels using Google Friend Connect. 
  9. Publishing options
    • A video should not be published upon upload. The uploader should be given the chance to add captions, change video settings, allow encoding to finish in HD, wait for monetization approval, set a future publish date, etc, before having it pushed to their subscribers. Publishers are currently forced to set a video to private and change it to public once all the changes are made which pushes based on upload time, resulting in videos being buried in users' subscriptions.
    • Lift the ten minute limit which forced longer videos to be broken into segments. 
  10. Edit: Make HTML5 with VP8/WebM default
    • A number of you have pointed out that basic counting skills reveal that there were only 9 ideas here, so i'm adding a tenth. YouTube should work on making sure that all of the features used in their flash interface (ads, annotations, etc), are also supported by their HTML5 interface. 
    • The HTML5 interface should then be defaulted to with Google's free and open video codec and format, VP8 and WebM, respectively. The proliferation of a free video standard for the web is damn exciting, and this will help make VP8 and Ogg Theora dominate video and audio offline as well.
Edit: Add your support here