YouTube does spring cleaning on its watch pages

YouTube is working on a new look for its video playback pages that's leaner and cleaner than what it's got now.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read

YouTube on Thursday is launching a refreshed version of its video playback pages. Similar to the company's efforts with its "Feather" program, the new look requires that users opt in while the company fine-tunes things--a process it says will run its course over the next few weeks before it decides to push it out to all users.

Like Feather, the new pages are leaner, cleaner, and put more of a focus on the video. But where Feather tends to strip out some of YouTube's features, this new look simply tucks them away.

What's new:
• Nested information. Big blocks of text, sharing menus, and embedding options are all now minimized. Users can expand each module to see more information.
• Simplified share buttons. YouTube has finally put the quick links that let people share videos on Twitter, Facebook, etc., front and center.
• A quick size toggle on the video player that lets users change a video from small to large. This is separate from the quality controls and full screen toggle.
• A quick look at other videos by that user. This new menu is on the very top of the page, and expands into a slideshow of thumbnails.
• The list of related videos on the right side of the page now changes depending on how the user got there.

What's moved:
• The box on the right that shows who made the video, and info about that video. That can now be found underneath the video, akin to a photo caption. However, like most of the other changes, this comes minimized by default.

What's gone:
• Five-star rating system. In its place is a like, don't like system where users give the video a thumbs up or down--just like they do for comments. The company says it's in the process of figuring out a way to convert existing ratings into the new system.
• Differing font styles. All fonts on the page are now the same.

What it looks like (click to enlarge):

The new watch pages are similar to what YouTube has been doing with its Feather program. CNET / Google

Along with the change, YouTube is also experimenting with a new way to let users search from a video page, without actually leaving the video they're watching. For instance, if a user starts a new search from any page, it will bring the video along with it on the left side of the results page. Then, when users click on a video from the results, it will bring those results back to the video page, where they'll sit on the right side of the page.

YouTube says the new look scales better than the old one both in terms of performance, and with additional features the company plans to add. The company also says that its Feather program will remain, due mostly to its prowess at serving up videos for people with shoddy connections. Beyond that, Feather will serve as a test bed for other ways to simplify and speed up pages, advances it says will later be carried over to the normal viewing pages.

To try the new program you can opt in here.