YouTube wants to dominate your living room, phone

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

YouTube launched a new feature Wednesday called Leanback, with the aim of competing with the website's greatest nemesis — television.

The feature allows users to watch HD videos in full screen, one after the other, with minimal clicking. It creates a playlist based on what videos you usually watch, or your friends' favourite videos. These videos stream continuously and automatically.

The idea is to mimic the experience of watching TV — from a distance and with minimal interaction.

According to YouTube, Americans watch five hours of TV per day, but only 15 minutes' worth of YouTube videos.

“Just as its name implies, YouTube Leanback is all about letting you sit back, relax and be entertained. Videos tailored to your interests play as soon as you visit the site and they play in full screen and high definition, continuously. There’s no need to click, search, or browse, unless you want to, of course. Watching YouTube becomes as easy as watching TV,” said Kuan Yong, YouTube's senior project manager, in a statement.

Your playlist, or feed, shows up as thumbnails at the bottom of the screen.

You can alter it by subscribing to specific YouTube channels or categories, like comedy or education.

You can also link it to your Facebook account so videos your friends share on the social networking site automatically show up in your feed.

Leanback, which is still in Beta, is already facing its share of criticism.

Ben Parr, co-editor of news website Mashable.com, told the BBC: "Whether they can win in the living room is the billion dollar question. It is just unclear if people want to watch YouTube video after YouTube video versus professionally made shows on the networks."

Tech blog Gizmodo commented on Leanback's passive nature.

"It's the ultimate goal, after all: users being able to watch Internet video as passively as they do television — with YouTube being the only channel — just waiting for friend to upload the next home video of their bunny rabbit," wrote Brian Barrett.

The same day Leanback was launched, YouTube unveiled changes to its mobile platform.

The mobile site is now faster, and certain features previously limited to the desktop version are now available, such as search query suggestion, playlists and the ability to “like” or “dislike” videos.

In launching the updates, YouTube cited a study that suggests more people will connect to the Internet via mobile devices than desktop computers within five years.

Playbacks on YouTube's mobile site were up 160% in 2009 over the previous year.

“As the world continues to go mobile, we think this is a great improvement for users who want a more consistent YouTube across many devices, no matter where they are,” said Andrey Doronichev, a YouTube product manager, in a blog post.


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