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YouTube tests an in-app messenger for sharing videos with friends

TechCrunch TechCrunch 13/05/2016 Sarah Perez

YouTube as a messaging app? Sure, why not! Everyone’s doing it, after all. In case you missed it: YouTube announced this week that it’s testing a new feature with a subset of its mobile app user base that will allow them to easily share videos with family and friends. Users with the feature can chat about those videos in a new tab in the app, the company says.

The feature makes sense, as a lot of YouTube’s user base already shares videos with their friends – but over SMS, iMessage or another messaging platform. YouTube is smart to try to capitalize on that behavior, in order to increase usage of its own app as well as the time its users spend engaged with its service on mobile.

Not that YouTube is struggling when it comes to mobile, of course. Its mobile usage has been steadily climbing over the years, and now sees average mobile viewing sessions of 40 minutes. It’s also bigger than any single U.S. cable TV network with the key demographic that includes those aged 18 to 49, the company has previously said.

The messenger feature is still in beta testing, and not all users have access to it at this time, YouTube notes. However, it is being trialed on both iOS and Android. Plus, as those users who are able to try out the messenger send videos and chats to friends, the recipients are then also able to use the new feature, too.

Friends who receive a video in the chat-like interface can choose to respond by sending a video of their own, or they can just type out a response or use emoji.

The move to launch messaging comes at a time when YouTube is working to redefine its platform as not only a place for user-generated content, but also a place where you can watch original series and movies, listen to music even when offline, watch e-sports, kids’ videos, and more. This messenger feature pushes it to become even more of a social network than it is today, while also acknowledging that a lot of socializing today is done on our smartphones through messaging, instead of more public social media. The move also follows Amazon’s recent launch of its own YouTube-like service, Amazon Video Direct.

YouTube did not confirm when the messaging feature will reach its wider user base.

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