According to a recent news report, Google is working on a live-streaming video app called YouTube Connect that is expected to be released soon for both iOS and Android. The web giant hasn’t confirmed whether the reports are true, but if it isn’t working on such an app it definitely should be—the one-time digital video leader is arguably already behind its competitors when it comes to mobile video.
The front-runner in this particular race, not surprisingly, is Facebook. The company started rolling out its streaming video feature over six months ago, when it offered it to celebrities and other verified accounts using the Mentions app. After being used by everyone from comedian Ricky Gervais to Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, it was opened up to all users in December.
Facebook is the leader primarily because of its massive size and reach. But mobile live-streaming video was around for some time before the social network jumped on board: Meerkat (which has since pivoted after being cut off by Twitter) launched in February 2015, and Periscope—which Twitter acquired in January 2015—has been around since 2014.
And where has YouTube been this whole time? It has YouTube Capture, which was launched in 2012 and allows users to save video to edit and upload to Facebook and other sites. And it has Creator Studio, which allows limited live-streaming—but nothing on the scale of Facebook Live. It seems a little odd that the entity most closely associated with the rise of user-generated digital video hasn’t tried harder to be at the forefront of the mobile video revolution.
YouTube has been spending a lot of time and effort working on the launch and rollout of YouTube Red, its ambitious subscription service offering TV-style content and full-length shows. And it’s a smart bet that YouTube will be part of the future of TV. And to be fair, it has also been working on beefing up its live streaming features for desktop and for large-scale events. But meanwhile, Facebook is scaling quickly when it comes to mobile.
The focus on video at Facebook is just part of an ongoing, all-hands-on-deck type of effort that has been underway for the past year or more. And it has been paying off: The social network now has more than 8 billion video views daily (although there is some valid criticism of that metric, since a video “view” is defined by Facebook as anything more than three seconds).
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More recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been focused intently on live video, to the point where sources at the social network told Re/code recently that he was “obsessed” with video streaming. The company is also said to be offering cash payments to celebrities to use and promote Facebook Live.
So in other words, if and when YouTube Connect does emerge from Google’s laboratory, it’s going to be an also-ran. That’s not to say companies that come to a market late can’t succeed. (After all, Google was pretty late to the search market too, and it seems to have done okay.) But given YouTube’s history, one would have thought that it would have been at the front of the mobile video-streaming market, rather than the back.