As video streaming became one of the most popular ways to view video, YouTube was one of the first big websites to make streaming accessible and reliable for web surfers. It’s no wonder that they are the premier website to beat, but YouTube can’t help but be aware of the growing number of video-streaming competitors, such as Hulu, so over the past month the company has released some new features to remind users that when it comes to video streaming YouTube is the only website you’ll need.
4K Quality Videos
Announced at VidCon 2010, the ability to view videos in 4K illustrates the fact that YouTube really is on the cutting edge of video streaming. Back in in November 2009, the company announced that videos could be uploaded and watched in 1080p or Full HD, and less than a year later, YouTube has kicked it up a notch with 4K video. At 4096 x 2304, 4K video is roughly four times the resolution of a 1080p, which means the video will be much sharper…for the people that can actually stream it. YouTube’s blog gave a friendly reminder to reader’s that 4K video, although great, is most certainly not for everyone. The fact that the video quality will be so much clearer also means that the file “will require ultra-fast high-speed broadband connections” in order to stream them. However, if you do have a ridiculously fast connection, then by simply clicking the “Original” button under the settings tab will allow you to view any video in its intended format. As of now, it’s safe to say that most users will stick with stream their videos in 1080p since Full HD already produces a very clear picture and most consumers do not have fiber optic cable to their houses. Nevertheless, this is still exciting stuff for users, and it’s one step further in evolution of video streaming.
Although the 4K update won’t be used by as many users right away, YouTube Leanback is a beta that anyone can try out right now and is meant to change the way we understand streamed video. Kuan Young, Senior Product Manager, wrote in YouTube’s blog that Leanback is “all about letting you sit back, relax and be entertained” allowing users to lean back and enjoy their content. Simply sign on to Leanback and YouTube will play videos according to your preferences and previously viewed videos. The feature automatically loads in fullscreen, and if you click on the video, it brings up the controls where you can play, skip, fast forward, rewind, rate the video or cycle through other videos that YouTube recommends. Once you load up Leanback, your mouse can take a much needed break. Like 4K videos, I find Leanback to be another one of YouTube’s many innovations in video watching, and it’s great for when I just want to watch fight clips of Tekken 6 or a T.V show that has been divided into segments. In conjunction with 4K videos, Leanback could be a feature that many other streaming websites will eventually offer to browsers because what Young says is very true: “Watching YouTube becomes as easy as watching TV.”
Upload Limit Increases to 15 Minutes
Finally, Joshua Siegel, Production Manager, Upload and Video Mangement, announced that YouTube would finally address the “number one requested feature by our creators,” the upload limit of 10 minutes on videos. On July 27th, YouTube officially increased the upload limit from 10 minutes to 15 minutes. Siegel went on to address the fact that it has taken quite a bit of time for YouTube to expand the minute cap, but “all of the major U.S. movie studios, music labels and over 1,000 other global partners use Content ID” increasing the minute cap is finally possible. Looking through the comments, some YouTubers were upset that the increase was only in an increment of five minutes, but I would argue that five minutes is a good enough amount for now. My personal video streaming habits involve watching the World Series of Poker online, which are usually spliced into five parts because of the previous 10 minute cap. With the additional five minutes, I can now shorten the number of videos from five to three more convenient segments, but if I could shorten it down to two or even one 50 minute long video then I would be a very happy subscriber. However, it would be extremely expensive for YouTube to grow from 10 minutes to 50 minutes in such a short period of time. As YouTube grows and technology progresses, the time limit should be increased accordingly. I suspect that we will begin seeing an increase once every year or so in the time limit for videos.