Google's internal incubator, Area 120, launched a new app today. Dubbed Uptime, it makes YouTube videos more social by letting viewers react to and comment on videos and share them with friends to watch together in real time. Currently the app is only available for iOS users, and there's no word if Android users will ever get the app. Google opened Area 120 to encourage its employees to use 20 percent of their time to work on side projects and start their own companies, so there's no telling how much support Uptime will receive over time.
Uptime seems to marry reactive features of Facebook Live videos with social video watching and sharing. After logging in with your Google account, you can follow friends and see what videos they're watching in real time. You can watch the same video and then see where they are in the video by finding their profile photo, which follows a rounded square bordering the video window. You can comment on videos while you're watching them, posting messages, emojis, reaction faces, and more. Those interactions are saved so other viewers can see them when they watch the same video, even at a later time. Tapping on the video itself while you watch it also shoots stars into the frame, but only those watching the video at the same time will see those embellishments.
Uptime explains how you can react to videos in real time with friends. You must consent to sharing your live video-watching habits with Uptime.
YouTube already has a live commenting system built in to its website and app, but Uptime appears to be a more engaging and fun way to watch videos with others at the same time, no matter where you are. Before you watch your first video in the Uptime app, you are asked to consent to sharing your live video-watching habits with other Uptime users. Letting others see the videos you're watching is crucial to the Uptime social experience, but it's important to note that this is strictly an Uptime feature. If you're watching a video using YouTube, no one will be able to see what you're watching.
As this is primarily a side project of Google employees, it's not as fully formed as YouTube and lacks some of YouTube's basic features. Currently you can't record a video to Uptime—you can only search for and watch YouTube videos that already exist—and there's no private messaging on Uptime. YouTube recently added private messaging, letting users share videos and messages privately without using another platform, but Uptime focuses on open sharing in which any of your friends can see what you're watching at any time and how you're reacting to it.
Another issue is that Uptime is very new, and there currently aren't a lot of users sharing videos on the app. You can share videos to other social media sites including Facebook and Twitter, and anyone who clicks on the shared link will be directed to the Uptime version of the video, rather than the YouTube version, which could encourage more people to use the app. There's also no address book feature right now, so you can't find friends using your contact list like you would on nearly any other social outlet. We can't expect too much from an experimental app, but there's a possibility that some Uptime features could make their way into YouTube depending on how popular the app gets in the future.