When I was a kid, I had a toy periscope that let me "see around corners and over walls." These days, I visit The Official YouTube Blog every day to get a quick look at what's happening at the largest worldwide video-sharing community. And last week I saw the future of video marketing.

Now, I could try to hoard this information the way selfish kids try to hoard their "special toys." But I learned a long time ago that it was more fun to share my toy periscope with friends and then get together to spend hours engaged in social conversations about what we had seen.

So, before we get together at SES San Francisco during Connected Marketing Week, let me share what I saw last Thursday on the YouTube Blog so you can get a quick look at the future, too.

On July 7, 2011, Noam Lovinsky, Product Manager, invited YouTube users "to play along with us by participating in one of our latest TestTube experiments: Cosmic Panda.”

So, what the heck is Cosmic Panda? Well, if you follow the cosmic critter over the double rainbow, then you'll see what might be become a future design of YouTube that looks different, including channels, playlists, and videos.

For example, I took this experiment for a test drive to see what the SES Conference & Expo channel might look like in the future. A screen shot appears below.

YouTube Cosmic Panda Lets You See Around Corners and Over Walls cosmic1 606x314

Now, I'm not the only one who has looked at Cosmic Panda. Brenna Ehrlich of Mashable says, "When it comes to channels, the new header is a lot more polished looking." I agree.

With the new version, the header is also a video, but at first glance it appears to just be a graphic. If you click on the graphic, it will bring you to the featured video. Cosmic Panda also rejiggers the setup so all content is found under the tabs "Featured," "Video" and "Community.”

Ehrlich says, "Overall, the whole layout is much cleaner and more professional looking." She's spot on. The new look and feel is stylish.

Now, take a look at the screenshot below to see what the Cosmic Panda revamp does to playlists like SES Toronto 2011 videos.

YouTube Cosmic Panda Lets You See Around Corners and Over Walls cosmic2 606x311

Eric Smalley, who writes the Digital Media column for CNET News, says the experimental redesign is "slicker, simpler, and darker." Yes, it is. He adds that Cosmic Panda "boosts the old, cluttered, entirely-too-white video portal into the realm of contemporary Web design in many ways." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Finally, check out the screenshot below of what the new design does to "Tips for SEOs and webmasters on how to survive Google's Panda update." (That's Google's Panda, not YouTube's Cosmic Panda. There seem to be a plethora of pandas. I suspect the popularity of Pablo Sandoval, who is nicknamed Kung Fu Panda, has prompted lots of engineers in the Bay Area to code name their pet projects after the San Francisco Giants infielder.)

YouTube Cosmic Panda Lets You See Around Corners and Over Walls cosmic3 606x311

Emi Kolawole of The Washington Post's Ideas@Innovations blog says, "The interface is more streamlined, fully separating the comment stream and related videos from the one you're watching. Those videos now appear alongside the comments below the main screening area." What can I say? She's right. And when you're right you're right.

Now, normally you can count on someone, somewhere to sound like Commander Leonard "Bones" McCoy, M.D. in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), who said, "And they probably redesigned the whole sickbay, too! I know engineers, they LOVE to change things." And there have been a couple of comments along that line.

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But I've been impressed that reaction to Cosmic Panda has generally been positive.

Jeremy Scott of ReelSEO says," I've tried it out, and I must say… it seems pretty cool to me at first glance. The redesign isn't so drastic as to be jarring. A lot of things are still in the same places. But there's definitely been a face-lift, and a healthy dose of the color gray has been liberally added in many shades.”

He adds, "This thing is outstanding in my opinion. Simplified and slick. The red chat-balloon icon on the bottom right lets you toggle the video's annotations on and off, and when captions are present, you'll have another little toggle icon for turning those on and off as well. And as you can see, you can still change the video resolution or jump up to full-screen view with the click of a mouse.”

Giles Turnbull, who writes the Techland column at Time.com, says, "The video player now sits on a dark background, which makes videos themselves pop a little more. It also provides more space for advertising, which sometimes appears to one side of the player, shunting the video across to (the) other side to make room.”

He adds, "Playlists and channel lists have been moved to a bar immediately below the player, where you'll also find the video size widget, which lets you view larger versions or flip to full screen.”

And he concludes, "Cosmic Panda also means more control for channel owners, who will get new page designs and customization options.”

And Liz Shannon Miller of GigaOm interviewed some YouTube Partners to find out "What YouTube creators think about Cosmic Panda." The response from partners was largely positive.

Douglas Sarine of Ask a Ninja said. "Hopefully this will ultimately increase value for advertisers and CPMs for content creators who use YouTube as their main distribution channel.”

Rebecca Lando of Working Class Foodies said, "After looking more in-depth, I really love how simple it is, both from an audience standpoint (finding videos, creating playlists, going from one video to another) and from a creator's standpoint.”

Benny and Rafi Fine of The Fine Brothers said, "This actually is a more streamlined and better version of the old YouTube channel page, where series playlists had their own specific module.”

Tony Valenzuela of Black Box TV said, "It makes the viewing experience much better.”

And Chris McCaleb of Big Fantastic said, "I like that it's streamlined, and allows you to aggregate multiple different shows in a meaningful way on a single channel (which is exciting).”

I also like that you can always jump back to the YouTube experience that you know and love by coming back to the Cosmic Panda page or visiting TestTube. This gives me the feeling that YouTube really wants to hear feedback, and that encourages me to stay engaged throughout these experiments.

So, I think Cosmic Panda gives all of us a quick look at the future of video marketing.

If you are coming to SES San Francisco, please attend the "Next Gen YouTube Marketing” session in the Social Media Track on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011, from 1:30 to 2:30p.m. After the session, we can get together to spend hours engaged in social conversations about what we've seen.

And if you've got an old toy periscope, bring it along. It's fun to be able to "see around corners and over walls.”

  • kkcvps

    personally I think the new you tube look is junk, I hope it loses them lots of money and advertisers, and from feedback on the web and the you tube users feedback it seems like it might just do that, the old channel design was fine.
    if it aint broke don't fix it..

  • webstatsart

    The new interface will de-rank websites and make the Youtube domain more popular. They want websites to lose and Youtube to win so they encourage you to embed their videos in your site but the link back to your website from youtube is a different html attribute from before. Now it is a nodofollow link which means that your website is going to be worth much less, lose page rank and it will be found in a lower position in the SERPS. Of course they want your Youtube channel to rank above your website. They don't care about your website.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100361750022323 Video Leads Online

    Doesn't look like you can send someone a Direct Message / or Private Message anymore with the new interface. Anyone know how to do that in Cosmic Panda?

  • http://www.videoleadsonline.com VideoLeadsOnline

    Hey... After poking around the Cosmic Panda interface, I have a couple more issues to point out about is (issues=problems).

    1) When you are looking at other people's channel, there seems to be no place to Direct Message them. You can go to the "Community" area, but that only lets you post a comment on their channel, not directly to the user.

    2) Everything on CP Interface seems to revolve around "Playlists". i.e. you can't just show a single video, but you can choose to show/feature a single video from a Playlist. The main new playlist is one they call "Uploads" - which shows all the uploaded (public) videos in your channel.

    Not a big deal, except that when you are letting the new CP interface rule, then users that watch vids on your channel are going to be watching them in a playlist automatically now. In the old interface, you could choose if a vid was part of a playlist or not, now ALL VIDEOS are part of a playlist like it or not, so they start to AutoPlay the "uploads" playlist if you are using the new interface.

    I went back to the Old Interface so the new playlist is no longer there and a single video can be just that... a single video.

  • http://www.videoleadsonline.com VideoLeadsOnline

    Looks like a fun change... though it will take time getting used to all the options, etc. I see less of an uprising than I did when YouTube last changed the Channels Page. perhaps I'm not looking in the right places, but last time it was hard to comment to YouTube without getting spammed with those that hated those changes.

  • Jonathan Young

    Seen how client channels look in the new YouTube format? - The Panda's not so Cosmic in my world right now.

  • Jeff Martin

    As a publisher, I can tell you every time these types of changes are put out to the public we hold out breath. What's this going to do to my views and engagement? What new problems are there? Is there new functionality I can leverage?

    It seems each time a change is proposed publishers loose more branding and more control of the experience they want to create for their audience. Things have changed quite a bit in just let the last 2 years.

    I see a couple of potential issues with two major areas:
    Related video
    This is usually the #1 traffic driver to other videos. Now they are fully buried beneath the fold to where you have to scroll to see any if there is a promoted video running (which will be often). At best a viewer will see one by default. Also, the number of related videos has shrunk down to seven by default which means it will be harder to get exposure which is a major issue YouTube has had to struggle with considering the influx of content. Yes, related videos CAN appear in the player at then end of a video, however:
    1. That can be diluted if YT decides to show promoted videos there.
    2. Many people won't reach the end of the video.

    Sharing & Engagement.
    This has been pushed down the page and shrunk. This functionality is critical to the success of a video and I would have like to have seem them encourage it more than seemingly downplaying it a bit. It is above the comments still (which look much better!) so time will tell how social/sharing/engagement are affected.

    I'm focusing on the watch pages as that's where 90+% of your views/sharing/engagement is going to happen.

    • Shelley Ellis

      Google just made a quiet announcement about changes to the Display Network...same here...I'm getting emails from people talking about what they are seeing already. Google's intention is good...but some changes create more change on our end when we lose traction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=684615046 Greg Jarboe

    Hey, this was fun. Can I do another?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1177363116 Mark Robertson

      yes please :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1177363116 Mark Robertson

    Nice one Greg Jarboe. Great to have you on the site :-)