What if Google Was Like YouTube?

2020-09-26

This was just a random brain fart but ...

I get the impression that for many topics, youtube is more popular than web pages. Note: I have zero proof but it doesn't really matter for the point of this article.

Let's imaging there is a website that teaches JavaScript, for example this one.

Note: I have no idea how many people go to that site but compare it to this youtube channel which has millions of views.

For example this one video has 2.8 million views and it's just one of 100s of videos.

I have no idea but I suspect the youtube channel is far more viewed than the website.

Why is that?

At first I thought it was obvious, it's because more people like videos more than they like text for these topics. It's certainly easy to believe. Especially the younger generation, pretty much anyone under 25 has grown up with YouTube as part of their life.

There are lots of arguments to be made for video for learning coding. Seeing someone walk through the steps can be better than reading about how to do it. For one, it's unlikely someone writing a tutorial is going to remember to detail everything where as someone making a video is at least likely showing the actual steps on the video. Small things they might have forgotten to write down appear in the video.

On the other hand, video sucks for reference and speed. I can't currently search the content of video. While I can cue a video and set it to different time points that's much worse than being able to skim or jump to the middle of an article.

Anyway, there are certainly valid reason why a video might be more popular than an article on the same topic.

BUT!

What if one of the major reasons why videos are more popular than articles is because of YouTube itself. You go to youtube and based on what you watched before it recommends other things to watch. You watch one video on how to code in JavaScript and it's going to recommend watching more videos about programming in JavaScript and programming in general. It's also going to ask you to subscribe to those channels. You might even be setup to get emails when a youtuber posts a new video to their channel.

So, Imagine Google's home page worked the same way. Imagine instead of this

It looked more like this

Even before you searched you'd see recommendations based on things you searched for or viewed before. You'd see things you subscribed to. You'd see marks for stuff you'd read before. Your history would be part of the website just like it is on youtube. Google could even keep the [+] button in top right which would lead to sites to create your content.

I can hear a lot of various responses.

I think it would be an interesting experiment. If not Google's current home page than some new one, youweb.com or something.

Like youtube it would mark what you've already read. Like youtube it would allow people to make channels. RSS is ready in place to let people add their channels. Not sure how many systems still support this but there was a standard for learning where the page is for adding new content so clicking the [+] button could take you there, where ever it is and Google could suggest places if you want to start from scratch including squarespace or wordpress.com or even blogger ๐Ÿ˜‚

I think it might be super useful to have more sites recommended to me based on my interests. I watch youtube. I look at the recommendations. In fact I appreciate the recommendations. Why should websites be any different? Unlike Youtube the web is more decentralized so that's actually a win over Youtube. Why shouldn't Google (or someone) offer this service?

I'm honestly surprised it hasn't been done already. It probably has but I just forgot or didn't notice.

This might also make the tracking more visible. People claim Google knows all the sites you visit. Well, why not show it? If there's a Google analytics script on some site and Google recorded you went there, then you go to Google's home page and there in your history, just like Youtube's history, is a list of the sites you've visited. This would make it far more explicit so advocates for privacy could more easily point to it and say LOOK!. It might also get people to pursue more ways to have things not get tracked. But, I suspect lots of people would also find it super useful and having Google recommend stuff based on that would seem natural given the interface. As it is now all they use that data for is to serve ads they think you might be interested in. Using that data to recommend pages seems more directly useful to me. Something I want, an article on a topic I'm interested in, vs something they want, to show me ad. And it seems like no loss to them. They'll still get a chance to show me the ad.

Oh well, I expect the majority of people who will respond to this to be anti-Google and so anti this idea. I still think the idea is an interesting one. No site I know of recommends content for me in a way similar to Youtube. I'd like to try it out and see how it goes.


Update

Someone pointed out Chrome for Android and iOS has the "suggested articles" feature but trying it out it completely fails.

First off I turned in on and for me it recommended nothing but Japanese articles. Google knows my browsing history. It knows that 99% of the articles I read are English. The fact that it recommended articles in Japanese shows it completely failed to be anything like the youtube experience I'm suggesting. In fact Google claims the suggestions are based on my Web & App Activity but checking my Web & App Activity there is almost zero Japanese.

Further, there is no method to "Subscribe" to a channel, for whatever definition of "channel". There is nothing showing me articles I've read, though given my rant on Youtube showing me articles I've read maybe that's a good thing? I mean I can go into my account and check my activity but what I want is to be able to go to a page for a specific channel and see the list of all that channel's content and see which articles I've read and which I haven't.

So while it's a step toward providing a youtube like experience it's completely failing to come close to matching it.

Note: I believe "channels" are important. When you watch a youtube video most creators say "Click Subscribe!". It's arguably an important part of the youtube experience and needs to be present if we're trying to see what it would be like to bring that same experience to the web. Most sites already have feeds so this is arguably something relatively easy for Google or whoever is providing this youtube like web experience to implement a "channels" feature.

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