How to Make YouTube and Chromecast More Social

Adding a subscriptions tab to profile pages would make YouTube more social, greatly improve Chromecast viewing and empower both users and creators while bolstering views. If it were easier for YouTube users to see what their friends were watching, it would make it easier — and more fun — to discover new programming and subscribe to more channels on YouTube, while empowering the personal profile/channel as a social platform.

YouTube Chromecast Subscribe to Channels“Google doesn’t get social media.” This sentiment’s been bandied about since the dawn of social in the mid-aughts. Google executive chairman of the board Eric Schmidt even admitted recently that his biggest regret as CEO was “not anticipating the rise of social…”

Social media can be very loosely defined as a construct and in the ever-changing operating system of the web and its users, Google is still poised to thrive even as it continues to slowly, but surely ramp up its own platform, Google+. But things begin to get real when some key moves are made to create a more social environment within YouTube. While SoundCloud took cues to become the YouTube equivalent for audio, YouTube can learn from SoundCloud’s superior integration of social subscription discovery and how that improves the user experience.

YouTube is Google’s gateway to the living room and with the $35 Chromecast dongle now available in several countries, YouTube could become the primary source of both information and entertainment for both cable subscribers and cord-cutters alike. Chromecast makes it easier than ever to watch online video on a television. Sure, Roku and Apple TV have been around for years but Chromecast has the best YouTube integration and can be controlled via native mobile apps or a laptop.

What’s missing? A way to navigate and discover YouTube content based on your personal interest and those of your peers. A more social YouTube can empower not only users but also content creators while redefining the way we use Chromecast.

google social chromecastThe fix begins with one [seemingly] simple feature: social subscriptions. The best and easiest way to begin watching YouTube via Chromecast is by browsing the new content from the channels one already subscribes to. But what channels to subscribe to? Users should be able to opt in to publicly share (at least some of) their subscriptions so others can discover new channels to subscribe to. Currently, there is no way to generate a dedicated link to one’s own page of YouTube subscriptions, you can only add a module with videos most recently watched to your own channel (see mine). Granted, not everyone wants to share their viewing preferences publicly – or even with friends – but for those accustomed to sharing and discovering new content and channels on platforms such as YouTube, this feature can be a game changer.

Now YouTube is only one “app” that plays over Chromecast — there’s an entire suite of them, including Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu Plus and others that are standard with the set-tops like Roku and Apple TV. But YouTube is free and has the greatest breadth of content, with more and more being made each day by fast-growing multi-channel networks such as Fullscreen, Machinima and Maker Studios, which will be acquired by Disney and will now be taking several hours of its YouTube content to cable TV, according to reports.

People are flocking to YouTube, no longer just to watch a song or search for a news clip but to watch regularly produced and even episodic content.

UPDATE 12/1/2014: You can now visit a users YouTube channel subscription list, example – youtube.com/user/revolute/channels (revolute is my YT username). There is some semblance of Google+ integration as well, when you go to a channel, you will see Google+ avatars at the top right of your contacts who have already subscribed to the channel. (Click here to make your channel subscriptions private.) With just a unique URL to shareable subscription lists that can be posted to Google+ I wouldn’t have to go through the tedious exercise of creating a web 1.0-style list of recommended YouTube channels for friends to subscribe to (as I recently did — copy/pasted below) and ideally the discoverer wouldn’t need to go through so many clicks to subscribe. Ideally, YouTube could create a profile tab similar to this one on Soundcloud (the YouTube equivalent for audio), which displays the accounts I’m following…

youtube on chromecast screenshotBelow: A shortlist of some of the YouTube channels I’ve subscribed to over the years. I’d love recommendations of new channels to check out – there’s so much good stuff out there! Please leave your recos in the comments section.

Right-click (or command-click [Mac] ctrl-click [PC) on the links to open channels in new tabs then click “Subscribe.”

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