Once upon a time, YouTube was simply the place you went to watch a cat play the keyboard, or something equally inane. In the 12 years since YouTube was created, it’s become a place for everything—a hub for gamers, live streamers, music videos, vloggers, and so much more.
But YouTube has grown up. Now, whether you watch videos on the website or the app on your phone, you’ll find a YouTube that looks a lot cleaner, a lot simpler, and a lot more focused. In both cases, YouTube seems to have taken stock of how video works now and built a service around it.
Take the mobile app. The new version trades all those red borders for clean white lines, making thumbnails and videos the only things you’ll notice in the app. You can speed up or slow down a video—previously a desktop-only feature—and double-tap on the screen to rewind or fast forward. If you watch a vertical video, YouTube will finally show it properly. No letterboxes, no bars, just a phone-filling vertical video.
On desktop, the new design updates the look more than it changes the experience. Instead of the white boxes on grey backgrounds, you choose between a clean white display or a new dark, cinematic theme, each with new, simplified typography. The whole page breathes a little better than before, and the new look hues to Google’s Material Design guidelines.
YouTube says the new products are built on a new framework that enables the team to build new stuff even faster. Given that everything about video changes constantly, they’ll need to. People are recording, streaming, watching, commenting, and searching in new ways. YouTube can only be the biggest thing in online video as long as it can keep up.