YouTube is offering desktop users a way to take the wheel that steers what YouTube plays next, and it's also morphing the look of its homepage on desktop web browsers and its tablet apps. The changes for Google's massive video service start rolling out Thursday.
The desktop-only additions give viewers more control over choices traditionally made by YouTube's recommendation algorithm, a bedrock to how YouTube funnels viewers down rabbit holes of video.
With more than 2 billion monthly users, YouTube is the world's biggest video service, and its recommendation algorithms guide most of the viewing there. Last year, YouTube's tech chief said more than 70% of time spent watching YouTube was driven by recommendations made with artificial intelligence.
Starting Thursday, a new "add to queue" feature for desktop web browsers will let the viewer decide the lineup of videos playing next. Those recommendations -- the "up next" videos that often autoplay -- is something that YouTube's AI usually programs for you.
If you hover over a video's thumbnail in a desktop web browser, an icon appears in the upper-right corner that lets you add that video to "a handful" lined up to watch next, without interrupting the one that's playing. This queue won't save after you've closed your browser; YouTube said that saving a video to your "watch later playlist" serves that purpose instead.
A test of the add-to-queue feature was reported earlier this year by 9to5Google.
YouTube also added a quick way on desktop to tell it to stop recommending a channel on the homepage. By selecting the three-dot menu next to a video on the homepage and picking "Don't recommend channel," you should stop seeing videos from that channel suggested on the homepage. It's something the company launched on mobile earlier this year.
You may, however, still find these videos in search, by visiting the channel page or in the Trending tab.
Overall, the desktop/tablet homepage's redesign makes the thumbnails for videos bigger, and the layout shows more videos on those larger screens. Videos also have longer video titles and higher-resolution previews. Small channel icons appear below each video now too, aiming to make it easier to quickly recognize the source or creator of a clip.
The goal is to make YouTube's homepage deliver more details about the videos offered there, the company said.
The company added that soon YouTube will let you refine your homepage and "up next" videos for tablet and desktop by selecting favorite topics and customizing your home feed with related videos. Those are also features that YouTube introduced earlier this year to its Android app.