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article imageYouTube now lets you send messages to friends from its app

By James Walker     May 12, 2016 in Technology
YouTube is building its own messaging system that will sit within the main YouTube app. The feature, available in early access to some users now, is designed to encourage you to share videos more often. You won't need to leave the app to contact friends.
Shimrit Ben-Yair, director of product management at YouTube, told Wired that the company is beginning to roll-out in-app messaging to users. Dubbed "native sharing," the messaging facility lets you communicate with the people around you while watching videos, avoiding the need to constantly switch between apps.
Google has designed the feature with video sharing in mind. A conversation begins with a user sharing a video with a friend. The recipient can then respond with another video, or invite additional friends to create a group chat and discuss the video.
The feature is accessed via a new tab in YouTube's mobile app. It opens a chat interface similar to that of conventional messaging apps, letting you view your conversations and unread threads. Tapping a thread opens the conversation to read messages or send a reply. In a nod to traditional social media, each message is accompanied by a heart icon that lets you "like" it in the conversation.
Native sharing in the YouTube app
Native sharing in the YouTube app
Google / WIRED
Ben-Yair said native sharing came about when her team decided that an intuitive and native way to share YouTube videos could increase user engagement with the platform. Today, most people share videos by copying and pasting a link into another messaging app. It's a clunky solution that doesn't work well for the sender or recipient. Depending on the platform, the video link may not even open in the YouTube app, instead opening a web browser to view the content.
By providing people with a simple way to share videos with others, YouTube can encourage users to stay active and keep watching content. It now aims to build a conversation around each video, taking the comments thread into a private context between friends.
YouTube remains the biggest video sharing site on the Internet. It sees more user engagement with 18- to 49-year-olds than any of the U.S. cable networks. The company is being aggressively pursued by rivals though. These include Facebook, Snapchat and, as of earlier this week, Amazon.
By giving people less reason to leave its app, YouTube has a better chance of retaining users. It also avoids the issue of people switching away to Facebook to share a video, potentially seeing more interesting content on the social network while they're away and abandoning their YouTube viewing.
YouTube turned in-app native sharing on today for a "small percentage" of its billion users. If you don’t have access to the feature, you can enable it by finding a friend who does. People can spread access by sharing videos with their friends.
Once you receive a message for the first time, the feature will enable for you. It's a unique way of rolling out messaging before it becomes available to every user, encouraging people to get to know the feature and proactively use it to share content.
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