YouTube Desktop: Not so useful

YouTube Desktop: Not so useful

I played with Google's new "YouTube Desktop" application (in beta) for a couple hours today, and came away with mixed impressions.

YouTube Desktop runs in a browser and allows you to organize your various video watching and management tools the way you want.

The app is basically a buffed out and personalized version of YouTube's regular web interface at www.youtube.com. So YouTube Desktop should be judged on the things it can do that the regular Web interface cannot, right?

The app lets you play two videos at once, not just one. I'm not sure why you'd want to do that, unless you're comparing them or preparing to splice them together (YouTube Desktop contains no video editing functions).

You can also search for videos and form playlists of the ones you think you'll like. Some users might like to gather a bunch of clips together, then play them all back, back to back. Still, what's wrong with watching one video, then selecting another one (possibly based on YouTube's suggestions) and watching it? That's a matter of taste.

The app also provides a "Last 20 Played" command which, when clicked, lays out thumbnails of your most recently watched videos. Using this is probably a lot better than hitting the Back button a million times to find that one video you liked.

If you really like a video, the app lets you save them to your hard drives in avi, mp4 (ipod), mov, 3gp (mobile), wmv, flv, or .exe formats.

This is a major advancement of YouTube's current capability. Still, the only reason I can think of for doing this is if you're worried that a given video is about to be yanked from the YouTube servers.

YouTube Desktop is also supposed to allow you to drag-and-drop, resize and minimize videos in a tray at the bottom of the page. I could resize and minimize, but I was unable to drag and drop videos to different spots on the desktop, and I tried it using both the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. Maybe they're still working on that.

Anyway, at the end of an hour trying out the YouTube Desktop, I had the impression that the designers threw in every piece of video management functionality they could think of, useful or not.

With everything working correctly, the site might be great for people whose lives revolve around uploading, downloading and socializing around user-generated video. But if that's who it's aimed at, why not throw in some basic video editing and upload tools?

I'm glad Google invited me to be part of their beta for YouTube Desktop. The truth is I love YouTube simply because of the astounding amount of video there. It's amazing. Sure there's a lot of silly, worthless stuff, but there's so much long-tail stuff like old videos of obscure bands and documentaries about taxidermy and just about anything else you can think of. All the stuff on all the VHS tapes in the world is slowly making it on to YouTube. Scary, huh.

I can understand why Google would want to offer users new tools to help swim through all that video, but YouTube Desktop misses the mark.

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Mark Sullivan

PC World

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