by Matt Kapko

YouTube rules at VidCon, but still empty-handed on live mobile video

News Analysis
Jun 28, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsMedia and Entertainment IndustryVideo

YouTube's CEO led the opening keynote at VidCon for the third year in a row, and though the online video giant had its 'best year ever,' its still lags behind competitors on key features such as live streaming on mobile devices.

youtube logo mobile devices
Credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

 ANAHEIM, Calif. — YouTube was again the belle of the ball at the seventh annual VidCon online-video conference last week. The competition in the video market, however, is tighter than ever before. Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter all launched mainstream video platforms during the year since YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki took the stage at last year’s VidCon.

The market is growing rapidly thanks to new entrants, partners, content creators and fans, Wojcicki said during this year’s VidCon keynote. “Even though the online video space is more crowded than ever, YouTube continues to thrive … We are growing in every region and across every screen.” 

[Related: YouTube chief claims ‘best year ever,’ plays down Facebook threat]

The Google-owned YouTube may still be the market leader, but it is running behind some competitors when it comes to key modern features. The company, for example, is in the awkward position of being both early and late to the live streaming craze. Wojcicki reminded VidCon attendees that YouTube first launched live streaming capabilities in 2011, but she skirted the issue of why it still hasn’t enabled the feature on mobile devices. 

Live streaming ‘coming soon’ to YouTube mobile app

Live streaming video is finally coming to YouTube’s mobile app, Wojcicki said. A revamped version of the app is “coming soon” and will give users the capability to live stream with a single click from within the app. Video creators will be able to broadcast live using the app, and mobile notifications will alert followers when live video is available. The app will also enable near-real-time chat, according to the company.

YouTube is a video stalwart — Google acquired the company nearly 10 years ago, more than a year after it was founded — and as such, it hardly seems shiny or new. The company knows it can’t compete with other, more nimble companies on the cool-and-new factor, so YouTube focuses on maintaining its position as steady giant.

While it may not be the quickest to implement change, the prevailing message from YouTube at VidCon was that its infrastructure and reach is unparalleled. YouTube is “faster and more reliable than anything else out there,” according to Kurt Wilms, product lead for immersive experiences at YouTube, who also spoke during the VidCon keynote. The new live video tools will empower creators to share experiences in new, more intimate ways, Wilms said.

[Related: A look inside the YouTube culture]

YouTube’s team of executives attempted to paint the crowded field of online video players, and the related growth, in positive light, but skeptics aren’t convinced it’s a good thing. “For my career and with our audience, growth has not always been good news,” John Green, cofounder of VidCon and the popular Vlogbrothers video channel, said during a separate keynote. “Online video is about hearing the voices we otherwise wouldn’t hear.”

Social impact of online video

Green encouraged attendees to consider the social impact of video and prioritize it over monetary gains. Video makers shouldn’t be creative for the sake of revenue, but rather let revenue fund creativity, he said. However, during YouTube’s keynote, Wojcicki didn’t make the distinction between creativity and revenue. YouTube focuses on helping users with new creative tools and solutions that can earn them money during the process, she said. 

“Over the last year at YouTube we have given a lot of thought about what we stand for, and we’ve identified a number of freedoms that we believe in and we want to promote at YouTube,” Wojcicki said. “These include the freedom of expression, that YouTube gives everyone a voice; the freedom of information, that YouTube provides information to everyone around the globe; the freedom of opportunity, that anyone on YouTube can build a media business; and the freedom to belong, that everyone can find connections and community.”