YouTube has long been a social network — we just haven't thought of it the right way. And now with mobile livestreaming, it's even more important to change that mindset.
Google+ is no Facebook. It's not supposed to be, and it's not going to be. (Facebook made sure of that.) And while that's both good and bad, there's no denying that there's power in numbers. And with more than a billion active users every single day, Facebook has the numbers.
That Google never managed to figure out social will forever be a black mark on the company's legacy. For all the incredible engineering work its done, Google couldn't win at getting folks to talk to each other? (OK, maybe it's not that surprising.)
But perhaps Google's about to finally carve out its social niche — in a very familiar place.
YouTube is adding livestreaming to its mobile apps. That it hadn't already — ceding months and months and millions and millions of users to the likes of Periscope and now Facebook (and, I'd argue, Snapchat) — is damn near criminal. This is YouTube we're talking about. This is Google. It's been doing livestreaming for what seems like forever. Hangouts on Air made it ridiculously simple for anyone to spin up their own online talk show. So why not on phones?
I'm old. And despite living this digital stuff every damn day, I still think in old ways sometimes. If I start streaming from YouTube, who's going to see it?
YouTube's going to see it, dumbass. All those subscribers. All those people who already are notified anytime their favorite channel adds a new video. And now? They're going to know when you're broadcasting live. Just like on Facebook. So what if there's not some umbrella website for all things social and Googly? The watercooler is already there, with folks around it. It's YouTube.
YouTube isn't just a repository — a place to stash your videos to be embedded somewhere else. It hasn't only been that for quite some time, a fact some of use figured out too late. Take any number of the personalities out there. (I refuse to call anyone a "YouTube star" or, worse, a "sensation.") They figured it out and cultivated an audience. And you can see just how strong that audience can be if you look at our own MrMobile. And our own Android Central channel continues to grow.
Who's going to see all the livestreaming on YouTube? The millions and millions of folks already there.
And now? Now we'll all have an easy way for our audiences — every single one of us on YouTube — to follow along, live. It won't be constrained to Google+. Chances are we'll still be able to embed streams on webpages, which is fine and all. (But that's also legacy.) No, Google just made it even more important to grow a YouTube audience. It made it even more important to explore what's on YouTube, for it to help separate the wheat from the chaff, and for those of us on the other side of the screen (which, again, potentially is all of us) to do compelling things and create moments that are worth sharing live.
We'll also livestream breakfast, of course. And all that other mundane crap we do every day. (And, yes, the old-guy boss in me recognizes that this is, in fact, one more thing that we're going to have to do in the course of our jobs.) And our subscribers — that's such a clinical, engineery term — will come along for the ride, closer than they've ever done before.
So maybe with live streaming directly from the YouTube app in our pockets, Google's finally going to find itself with sort of social network it should have cultivated from the start. Or maybe it's had it all along, and we just haven't thought of it in the right way.