YouTube’s new Backstage feature will allow creators and subscribers to share posts in forms such as text, photos, links, and polls, and is expected to launch by the end of 2016.
The feature will introduce entirely new forms of postable content to YouTube, with the most recent appearing first, much like a Twitter timeline or a Tumblr dashboard. Posts shared by creators will appear alongside videos in subscribers’ feeds and notifications, giving them high visibility.
It opens up the possibility of a more two-way conversation on YouTube, where subscribers can reply to posts in a number of forms, including photo and video. This development follows the success of competitors such as Facebook as a platform for sharing online videos as well as being a social network.
Backstage may cause more users to stay on YouTube for longer in order to communicate with each other instead of immediately turning to competitor sites. However, the popularity of these competitors is being accounted for by the option for Backstage posts to be shared elsewhere.
The sharing of videos will also be developed, with the option for creators to share both the traditional YouTube video and Backstage videos. The use of video on Backstage will create a more exclusive form of communication with smaller groups of viewers, similar to videos shared via Patreon.
The most recent attempt to develop YouTube into more of a social network – the integration of Google+ – proved unpopular with many creators, prompting responses such as Emma Blackery’s song My Thoughts on Google+.
YouTube creators have expressed mixed feelings about Backstage.
Jackson Lana says: “I think it’s great that YouTube wants to become a bigger platform to accommodate for the change that has occurred in recent years and the boom of YouTube that we are seeing at the moment.
“I think they need to be cautious,” he adds, however, “and not stray away too much from their initial idea which was ‘YouTube: broadcast yourself’, broadcast meaning film/video… YouTube for me has sometimes been a form of escapism from other forms of social media where everyone seeks attention. It’s a place where you become friends with creators through views and comments. I think there are enough platforms for creators to express themselves outside of YouTube”.
Catie Brown also expresses her concerns: “I’m worried it could be another Google+ and put people off using the website entirely. Depending on how it’s implemented, it could feel like a bit of an information overload. Also… I’m wary of my audience and distribution becoming too dependent on YouTube, or any one website that I can’t control.”
However, she is optimistic about Backstage, adding: “I’m hopeful that Backstage could turn YouTube into more of a conversation and help connect specific communities – I make videos in the vinyl community and, other than commenting on each other’s videos, there’s no way to connect us all on the platform.”
Robb Gough agrees, saying: “It allows creators the opportunity to deliver news updates and bonus material directly on the platform that all of the audience definitely already uses… In my opinion, it’s always a good thing to simplify a process, even if everyone has gotten used to how complicated it is.”
Backstage is expected to launch on both desktop and mobile before the end of the year, initially to selected popular YouTube accounts.