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April 25, 2009

YouTube RealTime Sharing

YouTube has always been a social network, but the interactions between users are limited. Last year, YouTube started to broadcast activity streams and you could see on the homepage the latest videos uploaded by your friends, their latest comments and ratings.

To make the activity streams more useful, YouTube decided to expand the actions that are shared and to show them in a persistent toolbar at the bottom of the page. The feature, dubbed RealTime YouTube, requires an invitation from a friend who already has it.

The RealTime toolbar shows a list of friends that are currently online, their recent activities and notifies when one of your friends posts comments or rates videos. For example, you can now see all the videos currently watched by your friends.

The toolbar lacks some features that would make it really useful: chatting with your friends and watching videos at the same time. You can disable the real-time sharing and it's also possible to hide the toolbar from YouTube's settings.

If you already have the RealTime toolbar, you can send invitations to 25 of your friends. A simple way to both invite YouTube users to become your friends and to send an invitation for the toolbar is to use the YouTube Peeps link, which is only active for 15 minutes. To get an invitation, monitor the search results for on Twitter and click on a recent invite link.

Real-time interfaces become increasingly popular as people no longer want to wait for updates: Twitter's real-time search, FriendFeed's new interface and YouTube RealTime show what's happening right now.

"An overwhelming sense of restlessness and impatience engulfed the U.S. this week when citizens determined that everything — the morning commute, phone conversations, getting a table at Chili's, making coffee, commercial breaks, everything — was taking entirely too long," reported The Onion last month. "According to the latest time estimates, if everything continues to move along at this intolerable pace, Americans will be left with no other choice but to scream."

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