Care to know the number 1 source of traffic in the high school network I manage? It's not Facebook or MySpace, since we largely keep those blocked. It's YouTube. Teachers use it all the time given the vast resources of actual worthwhile content sitting on the site and it's a major source of entertainment for the kids. Care to know the major source of traffic in my home? It used to be Hulu, but YouTube now reigns supreme, especially since I blocked all P2P traffic (much to my kids' chagrin). YouTube is, in fact, second only to Google itself in terms of searches on the web.
YouTube is almost ridiculously popular, displacing MySpace in many cases for the promotion of music, competing with Hulu for original and broadcast content, and replacing America's Funniest Home Videos as the entertainment of choice for an increasingly online society. Google has just finalized the rollout to all users of its freshened YouTube interface. While not drastic (if it ain't broke, as they say), the redesign makes better use of screen real estate and simplifies sharing on social networks. It also provides for an easier switch between embedded, full-screen, and wide-screen viewing. Probably not a bad idea, given the proliferation of wide-screen devices and this little tablet that everyone keeps talking about.
According to PCWorld, the redesign should also help drive the monetization of YouTube, keeping users watching videos longer:
...it's designed to improve the site's stickiness by getting visitors to watch more videos and (hopefully) never leave...In addition, you can now conduct a search while watching a video--a boon for multitaskers. Results appear on the right side of the page and won't interrupt the video.
If Google hopes to make their way into our living rooms, this is, of course, vitally important. If I'm watching YouTube videos on my television, I should at least have equivalent functionality to that of my crappy satellite service.
In addition to a simplified rating system (the stars are gone, replaced by thumbs up and thumbs down), it's easier to save favorites and user channels are both more obvious and easier to subscribe to. For one of the best examples of how the new YouTube UI can be leverage for advertising, entertainment, and "stickiness", check out the Toyota Sienna channel. I think Google just might be on to something here. That would be a surprise, right? Google figuring out how to make money on the web? Go figure.