YouTube has finally released their YouTube XL app. For those unfamiliar with XL, it's an optimized version of the site aimed at television viewing. I don't really know how that's all that different from their original version of the site, just a bit simplified with a new, big and bulky "skin", hence the "XL," that is optimized for lower resolution TV sets.
What it comes down to is that you can now connect a web-browser capable appliance – oh say a computer or a game console – and surf almost all of the YouTube Content. It's their way of taking YouTube and partnering it with TV so that the videos can be seen there. I'm not really certain why one might need a TV-specific version since it doesn't sound like there is anything more to it than the standard version. In fact, since some premium content won't be available on the TV – it's actually less.
Well, it does have some optimized features for TV. Since the screens are far larger than standard viewing sizes from computers they are offering extra large video players and some easier controls for them. Additionally, you can view videos continuously and there is no "page refresh." The site is 100% flash.
They yanked the social networking aspect, with the exception of email-to-a-friend, probably because they feel that typing is a bother on your TV even though you're going through a device that can probably support a keyboard.
We're told it was to clean up the onscreen interface for the TV version, but with all that space available that seems sort of counter-intuitive doesn't it? Strangely when I went to http://www.youtube.com/xl the site did show me things like related/suggested videos. The text is certainly larger and the viewing area takes up most of the screen by default.
Overall it doesn't look like it's doing much of anything that might not be done via the standard site. It is offering less features and less videos and so looks like it currently amounts to simply, less. Most notably, high-definition playback seems to be missing, despite showing HD results in the search. The first time that I clicked on a result, my browser crahsed… I know, it is meant for TV, but what I thought was funny was that it was Google's Chrome browser.
After I restarted the browser, I tried again. This time, the plugin seemed to work ok, but the videos were clearly not in 720P. I tried this as well in Firefox but same result. Perhaps this is because I wasnt using the television? Shouldn't the "HD" version of the regular player expand quite well to most newer, widescreen televisions?
One nice thing, though Im sure it is temporary – No Ads…
Lastly, if this is for the television in particular, why oh why, would they have excluded TV "show" or "movies" channels in the list of channels, is this because of the broadcast network rights and restrictions? My guess is that it is as I searched for a video that is shown on their main site under the "movies" channel and although it gave me a result, when I clicked to watch it, it said "This video is unavailable." Then why include it within the search results?
I could be wrong, but after testing this in Beta for 6 months, it seems like they've missed the mark on this one.