Waiting for a movie or TV show to buffer can be a frustrating experience, and fortunately may soon be a thing of the past. Instead, you may soon end up downloading most of your media for later viewing or listening.
That’s the workaround YouTube has come up with for its users in India with its new app YouTube Go. The app is optimized for slow, spotty network connections that are the norm for India. And not just a slow 4G connection with only one bar — YouTube set up a 2G network in its Silicon Valley office so developers could test the app.
YouTube promises that “this app is coming soon!” on the website set up for it, but no other details have been released. You can sign up for updates though.
YouTube sent a team to India to interview potential users and see how people are using their app in the real world. They discovered that the social experience was important, whether it was watching a video together, or sharing clips phone to phone with SD cards. They used the experience to inform their design of YouTube Go. The app features short previews of videos so users can decide if they’re worth downloading, and offline sharing with nearby phones. Otherwise, it’s a bare bones YouTube experience, without the trending videos or subscriptions current YouTube viewers may be used to.
Downloading for watching, or listening, later is going to become a lot more common. In developing economies, data infrastructure (or the lack of it) makes it a necessity. Connections and speeds are unreliable at best, so it makes sense to let people download a file when it’s convenient, which is not always when it’s convenient to actually consume that media.
In developed economies like the United States, downloading for later consumption already exists for some media. Music apps like Spotify and Apple Music allow you to download music for offline listening, an important feature if your commute is spent underground in a subway tunnel or you spend time in areas with spotty cell service. While service coverage and speeds are improving, file sizes are also growing as quality improves. It may make more sense for apps like Netflix to allow you to download a movie or TV series when you have decent service or a wifi connection so cellular networks won’t be overloaded by streaming. Anybody who’s tried sending a text message in a populated stadium knows that weight slows things down considerably.
YouTube’s focus on the needs of the “next billion” users, people getting access to the internet in China, India, Indonesia, and Brazil, is something that more companies will be doing in the future. It’s hard to say how that will influence design and functionality of existing apps, but YouTube Go is a hint of what may be in store.