Popular video platform YouTube is reportedly seeking to greatly expand its social features with a new section called "Backstage," where users can share photos, polls, links, text posts, and videos to anyone subscribed to their channel (via VentureBeat). According to internal sources at YouTube, Backstage will launch in the fall both on the company's mobile apps and desktop. The initial soft launch will only be for "select popular YouTube accounts" and include "limited features," however.
YouTube's social expansion is believed to be in response to the popularity of services like Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter, which are increasingly improving their own video functionality -- particularly Facebook -- and pulling away users from sharing YouTube videos within each network. Posts shared on Backstage will curate in a reverse chronological order, and each user's content will be found next to the "Home" and "Video" tabs within a YouTuber's channel. Backstage posts will also be pushed to every subscription box, similar to any time a new video is posted, "making them highly visible to fans."
Backstage marks a pivotal shift for YouTube, whose sole focus on video and unsuccessful Google+ integration have left the door open for popular users to flock to competing services like Twitter and Facebook in order to better communicate with fans. By introducing new ways for users to converse, Backstage could reverse the historically one-way communication between stars and their fans. Video sharing and watching will remain the primary function of YouTube, but Backstage may help make YouTube a better place to talk about those videos, too.
It's not clear what will be initially available for the select users during Backstage's soft launch, but eventually YouTube wants to enable users to share both traditional videos and "Backstage-only" videos on the service. Although still unconfirmed, this could mean "more intimate" video-sharing abilities between users, potentially even ephemeral posts that disappear, similar to Snapchat and, now, Instagram Stories.
Down the line, the company wants to "spur new types of conversation" on the platform, allowing users to respond to Backstage posts with their own photos, videos, "and other types of comments." These response features are being referred to as "rich replies" by those close to the project. The company's goal is to keep YouTube watchers within its ecosystem to talk about videos, and not defecting to Twitter or Facebook to chat with friends, or even contact their favorite popular YouTuber. It wasn't mentioned whether Backstage would be exclusive to the company's premium paid YouTube Red subscription service or not.
The Backstage news comes at the same time of Apple's reported interest in creating its own video sharing app, with the hope of competing with existing social networks as well. YouTube's concerns undoubtedly stem from Facebook's focus on video, which began with a comment by CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier in the year, and has expanded into MSQRD integration, an entirely new app, and the testing of autoplay videos with sound in its iOS and Android apps.