Last year, I launched an Innovation series to give you an inside look into how our teams were working to redefine the video experience in 2021 and beyond. And it was quite a year for innovation at YouTube. We refreshed how viewers engage with content, from improving core experiences like search and the infrastructure that powers the platform to advancing across apps and formats like YouTube TV, YouTube Shorts and YouTube Music. We also introduced new ways for creators to make money and brought more choice for parents to guide their families' experiences. And along the way, we partnered with creators to empower them to do what they do best.
But in a lot of ways, we’re just getting started. I’m excited for all the new products and tools that we’ll be rolling out in 2022 - you’ll notice a few highly requested features on this year’s roadmap. Every single one of these updates is based on a lot of discussion and data, as well as feedback from the entire YouTube community. Sometimes, there are unavoidable tradeoffs in our decisions, but we always carefully weigh what’s best for the long-term health and success of our ecosystem. (For more on how we make product decisions, check out my recent conversation with Lew.) Here’s a glimpse at some of the things we have in store for our creators, viewers and partners this year.
YouTube creators are the heart and soul of the platform, and we want them to always be able to fulfill their most ambitious creative goals. To give them every opportunity possible, we’ll continue to invest across our multiple formats: Shorts, Live, and video on demand (VOD). And in the months ahead, we will bring even more engagement and monetization options across all three formats.
Short-form content is incredibly popular - YouTube Shorts have now enjoyed over 5T all-time views. Creators and artists of all stripes - from Jake Fellman and Lisa Nguyen to BTS and Marina Sena - have seen the power of Shorts to connect with fans around the world with astonishing speed and scope. In 2022, we’ll continue to improve the product and make it easier to create videos. Building on a feature we introduced last year that lets you remix audio from videos across YouTube, we’ll introduce new capabilities that empower creators to express themselves even more - new video effects, editing tools, and more. And to help Shorts creators engage with their audience more personally, we’ll also introduce the ability to reply to individual comments by creating a Short.
We also launched the YouTube Shorts Fund last year to start rewarding creators for their work. While this was just a first step, we’re already helping a new generation of creative entrepreneurs. In fact, over 40 percent of creators who got a check from the Fund last year weren’t previously monetizing their content on YouTube. In the coming months, we’ll start to test other ways to make money on Shorts—like exploring new ways for Shorts creators to build branded content through BrandConnect, integrating fan-funded features like Super Chat into Shorts, and bringing the ability to shop directly from a Short.
Live is another area that will see progress this year to build on our momentum — daily live watchtime more than tripled between January 2020 and December 2021. We’ll introduce collaborative live streaming, which (you guessed it!) allows creators to go live together and create even more interactive streams for their audiences. One of the biggest questions live streaming creators have is “what do I talk about?” The ability to “go live together” should hopefully open up streams to more casual conversation and interactions with other creators — making it easier and more fun to go live. Creators will also be able to grow their network and reach, and their communities will have a chance to interact and build connections.
Features like Super Chat and Channel Memberships have helped a new generation of Live creators participate in the creator economy, and this year, we plan to expand this even further. We’ve just started testing gifted memberships — the ability to purchase a channel membership for another viewer in the livestream—to a small group of channels. We know this is a top request, and plan to roll out more widely in the coming months!
For all video viewed on YouTube, we want to allow for more thoughtful engagement. One area of focus has been improving comments so that they feel more helpful for creators and viewers alike. For example, we’re testing out the ability for creators to set channel guidelines so they can better shape the tone of conversations on their channel.
A feature for creators to set their preferred channel guidelines
And viewers will have the option to sort comments timed to the exact moment they’re watching in a video — giving valuable content to comments as they read them.
Sorting comments timed to the moment a viewer is watching
And something creators have repeatedly told us is that they often struggle with generating new content ideas or have a tough time figuring out which ideas will be successful. To address this need, we’ll be introducing new insights in YouTube Studio that empower smarter creation. Our tool will harness YouTube and Google’s data sets and allow creators to better understand viewer demand, helping generate concrete content ideas for upcoming videos.
Web3 also opens up new opportunities for creators. We believe new technologies like blockchain and NFTs can allow creators to build deeper relationships with their fans. Together, they’ll be able to collaborate on new projects and make money in ways not previously possible. For example, giving a verifiable way for fans to own unique videos, photos, art, and even experiences from their favorite creators could be a compelling prospect for creators and their audience. There’s a lot to consider in making sure we approach these new technologies responsibly, but we think there’s incredible potential as well.
And across all these formats, you’ll see even more ways to help creators make money and build a business. In 2021, we reached the incredible milestone of 2 million creators in the YouTube Partner Program, with 10 ways for them to make money. All of this work takes into account the feedback from creators, so keep it coming.
Just like we want to enable a range of formats and experiences for creators, we’re also focused on giving viewers the best possible experience across nearly every global device with an internet connection.
TV was once again our fastest growing screen in 2021 — as of January 2022, on average viewers are watching over 700M hours of YouTube content on TV daily. And in the year ahead, we want to give these viewers easier navigation and even more interactivity. One of the ways we’ll do this is through a device that you always have within reach: your phone. Soon, we’ll be unveiling a new way for viewers to use their phones while they watch YouTube on their TV to read or leave comments, share videos with a friend, and much more - stay tuned!
One thing that I love to hear is how much people appreciate the YouTube TV experience, and we’re going to keep pushing forward on even more innovative features for our members. Last year, we announced several new updates, like the introduction of 4K Plus. The add-on package not only offers 4K quality on select content, but also includes unlimited streams in a household and the option to watch shows offline without an internet connection. It was a huge boon to sports fans like me. I’m delighted to share that this year we’ll launch a redesign that will further streamline the user interface, including updates to Library and Live, which will give our viewers more control over how they organize and watch their favorite content with an even smoother experience.
We’re not only concerned with a smoother viewing experience, but most importantly a safer one - especially for kids and families. We have developed ways to let young people of all ages more safely explore their diverse and developing interests through YouTube Kids and supervised accounts. Last year, we enabled supervised accounts for parents who’ve decided their tweens and teens are ready to explore YouTube. Supervised accounts allow parents to choose from three different content settings that align with content ratings for pre-teens and older. And this year, we’ve just expanded supervised experiences to Music, Living Room, and Assistant.
YouTube Music will continue giving listeners the most expansive experience, featuring a catalog of over 80 million official singles, albums, remixes, covers, and hard-to-find music. Last year, we began rolling out background listening in Canada, free of charge. And on our main app, we’re giving Premium members even more seamless and smoother audio experiences. We’ve launched new listening controls and will introduce a feature to improve the listening experience by reducing loud peaks and boosting softer sounds.
Finally, we couldn’t have a piece about innovation without touching on the metaverse! We're thinking big about how to make viewing more immersive. The first area in which you can expect to see an impact is gaming, where we'll work to bring more interactions to games and make them feel more alive. It’s still early days, but we’re excited to see how we can turn these virtual worlds into a reality for viewers.
The scale and breadth of YouTube gives our global partners - from major brands and advertisers to music and gaming publishers - a way to reach audiences that they can’t find anywhere else. And in turn, these partners fund YouTube’s creator entrepreneurs.
One of the most anticipated opportunities we’ll bring to our brands this year is Shopping. This new experience taps into the deep trust creators have built with their communities to help our partners expand into the booming world of e-commerce. We’re thinking about shoppable videos, Live Shopping, and, more broadly, how shopping appears across the app. With shoppable videos — like this partnership for Black-owned Friday — users can shop tagged items in their favorite creators’ videos.
Live shopping offers viewers an interactive setting where they can engage with creators while they drop new products, unveil exclusive deals, or discuss their latest shopping haul. Last November, we hosted the “Holiday Stream and Shop,” a weeklong event with creators like MrBeast, the Merrell Twins and Gordon Ramsay alongside global brands Walmart, Samsung, and Verizon. It showed tremendous engagement — a total of over 2 million views and 1.4 million Live Chat messages. Manny MUA, who featured his Lunar Beauty line, said “The experience exceeded my expectations in terms of sales. I figured because my products were already in the market for weeks that users wouldn't purchase as much because they had already launched, but I was really really impressed.” And we’re going to keep working to make this easier and better in 2022.
Another new chapter
Today, the world of video innovation at YouTube is moving so quickly that it feels like we’re at the beginning. But in some ways, it feels like we’ve said that every year since YouTube first launched in 2005.
It’s perhaps thanks to the incredible age of change and innovation that we find ourselves in a series of new beginnings - not just for us, but also for our creators, viewers, and partners. I’m so grateful for our teams who work to make YouTube the leading platform for engagement, entertainment and enrichment for billions around the globe.
And with so much to come in 2022, here’s to another exciting beginning.