Since sites like Facebook and FriendFeed have already enabled real time interaction for users on their site, YouTube is starting to do the same. A new feature called YouTube RealTime is now being tested on a limited basis.
YouTube RealTime shows up as a bar on the bottom of all pages on the site for users who are logged in and participating in the beta test. Not only can participating users see which of their friends are online, but they can also see which videos those friends are watching, and what they think about the videos, based on the comments posted by those friends.
Screenshot of RalTime toolbar showing friends’ video views
The first button on the toolbar indicates that RealTime sharing is activated. The service can be turned off so that users share only videos they wish to. Adjacent to this is a button that is enabled when the user watches a video. Clicking on the button shows a list of other users viewing the same video.
An ‘Online Friends’ button shows a list of friends currently logged into YouTube. The last button, a little bell with a number beside it
During the closed testing period each user can invite up to 25 online friends to try RealTime and share their viewing experiences. While this limits the number of users who can trial the service, it is gradually expanding, as each invitee is given 25 invites to distribute further. Google had used a similar trial invitation system when Gmail was first launched.
A lot of YouTube users go to the site without any specific video in mind. They could be particularly interested in finding out what their friends are viewing and then sharing these videos with other friends. The added video views could generate more ad revenue for YouTube and its advertisers.
This is not the only change coming to YouTube. The video sharing site recently unveiled two new sections featuring full-length movies and TV shows and a limited number of users are also trialling a new channel layout.
Sample new channel layout on YouTube