"At Google IO, Eric Schmidt talked about the Web opportunity," said Kuan Yong, manager of YouTube platforms. "This is really what XL is about."
YouTube XL looks a lot like YouTube TV, a YouTube interface designed for viewing videos on TVs connected to Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii game consoles. It's is built atop the same code base, but it's less device-specific: The goal of YouTube XL is to improve the YouTube viewing experience on any device with a large screen that supports modern Web browsers.
The difference between the traditional YouTube site and YouTube XL goes beyond mere aesthetics. YouTube XL offers a radically different experience because it's anti-social by design.
"XL is really for just when you want to watch videos, when you're not feeling really social," said Yong. There are no user comments visible on YouTube XL.
YouTube XL is designed to replicate the TV viewing experience, where shows are watched one after the other. It supports navigation via wireless remote, such as the Android Gmote app, or via wireless keyboard. A typical use case would involve displaying YouTube XL in a browser on a laptop connected to a large-screen TV.
Although YouTube XL is ad-free at the moment because it's being tested, its commercial prospects look bright. Advertisers won't have to worry about their messages intermingling with offensive, vulgar, or juvenile comments.
Whether XL has any impact on YouTube's ability to monetize user-generated content remains to be seen, but it's likely to make YouTube's platform more appealing to professional content providers because it encourages passive viewing and traditional TV ad delivery.
YouTube is discussing XL with partners but doesn't have anything specific to announce at the moment, Yong said.
Not every company shares Google's vision of the Web as universal media platform. Last week, Hulu, a video site run by NBC Universal, News Corp., and Disney that represents YouTube's most serious competition, introduced Hulu Desktop, software for viewing Hulu videos on a PC without a Web browser.
Hulu's owners fear that if enough high-quality content is available online and if enough viewers take the trouble to port that content from computers to living room TVs, people will stop paying for cable TV subscriptions and their revenue will decline.
As far as YouTube is concerned, however, TV is destined to become nothing more than a multiviewer Web interface.
"We've now agreed that the Web is the way forward," said Yong. "It's part of Google's strategy to promote the Web as a common platform."
Learn about all the latest Enterprise 2.0 technologies at TechWeb's Enterprise 2.0 Conference, Boston, June 22-25. Join us (registration required).