Previously, YouTube users could only allow up to 25 other people to see a video uploaded as "private.” There are many, many situations in which that number becomes inconvenient or downright annoying. Case in point: Melinda, a teacher profiled in YouTube's blog announcement regarding Unlisted Videos. Melinda wanted to share a video of a school project with the students of the school and their parents. That would amount to far more viewers than YouTube's privacy settings allowed.
It's an interesting side note to this awesome new feature that Melinda actually contacted YouTube about her dilemma, and that's what prompted them to create Unlisted Videos. You have to love the move by the teacher to try and do something about it, as well as YouTube's classy reaction. The service is already live, but here's a look at a screenshot YouTube shared:
Unlisted Videos is a way to get a private URL for your video. It won't be in YouTube's search results and it will not appear on the site for people who are just browsing . Essentially it's hidden. Then, as the video uploader, you are free to share that link with whomever you please. And it will function and look just like a normal YouTube video… only people won't be stumbling on to it without having first received the link.
The glaring and obvious asterisk is that anyone you share a link with can share that link with someone else if they choose. They can publish it on their blog or Facebook wall.
This is not a password-protected video or one with added security features. So, in other words, this is not a tool that you should use to upload naughty videos. Or videos of you and your friends committing a crime. This is not intended for use with private shareholder information or trade secrets. If you want a video to truly remain private, this is not the service for you.
That being said, this is a service that is going to be huge. Here are just a few of the groups that will become the core users of this thing:
- Businesses. Share ideas, mock-ups, training materials, and presentations with a coworker or client without worrying about it becoming widely public.
- Families. Spotlight-wary parents can now upload videos of their adorable toddler doing something hilarious without the fear of them becoming the next David After Dentist.
- Schools. As in the sample scenario YouTube mentioned, teachers and administrators can now share important or entertaining videos with students and families without creating an argument at the next PTA meeting. I'm guessing colleges and universities will find all sorts of creative applications for this service.
- Shy People. There are all kinds of singers, musicians, speakers, and other talented people in this world who are also surprisingly shy about performing in public, typically preferring to share their gift with only close friends and family. Those people will be much more likely to upload a video for private viewing now that they can be relatively certain they won't become unfairly famous overnight.
- Churches. Churches will be all over this thing, using Unlisted Videos for everything from sermons to youth group videos, from children's musicals to prayer requests.
I think this is a lot more important a service than YouTube's casual announcement indicates. It's going to drive new users to YouTube, and get current users even more involved with the freedom that this kind of thing affords. Simple, obvious, and powerful.