In May I wrote a piece about Vervid, a small app with big ambitions – to become the ‘YouTube of vertical videos’. However, it seems I wasn’t the only one to take notice, as YouTube have announced that they too are jumping on the vertical video bandwagon with their latest ios and android app updates.

It’s official, your YouTube app can now play vertical videos in full screen – without the frustrating black borders we have come to know and despise. The update has completely re-vamped their app as well as their mobile site, following announcements from CEO Susan Wojcicki that the world’s biggest video site is all about mobile, mobile, mobile!

Putting their money where their mouth is, this is likely the first step in YouTube’s plan to try and stamp-out competition in the mobile video domain, and could spell disaster for smaller apps, like Vervid and Snapchat who were swooping in to plug the gap.

So how does the new layout shape-up?

For starters, navigation has been improved. There are three new tabs to streamline the user experience:

  • Home: Easily explore and discover videos you love with recommendations based on your watch history as well as playlists personalized just for you.
  • Subscriptions: Find the latest videos from your favourite channels and personalities on the new Subscriptions tab. And to help make sure you never miss an upload, you can now tap the bell icon on the channels you love to get a notification the second a new video is posted.
  • Account: Check out your playlists, watch history, and the videos you’ve uploaded all in one place.


Imitation Game

Unfortunately for Vervid and co., the improvements don’t stop there, as YouTube have brought out the big guns – a video creation tool.

Putting as much emphasis on self-expression as video consumption, users can now take their creativity to new levels using the set of built-in video tools. It’s a logical step to take. You’ve already got an amazing camera on your phone or tablet, and now you can trim your footage, apply filters, add music and upload, all from within the app itself (does this sound familiar to anyone else?).

However, this doesn’t mean that Vervid is down for the count, as the app still has some surprising and unique features to help it stand out. The one I was most impressed with is their innovative approach to profile pictures. They’re aren’t any. Instead the system uses eight second long, vine-like videos called ‘Bursts’ that play with a tap of the finger.


Imagine a circular moving image of the uploader, layered unobtrusively over videos in the main gallery; they also apply to comments, notifications, and alerts (really, anywhere you’d normally see a static profile pic). Bursts will be ready to port to Apple Watch as an independent notification this fall, and it’ll be interesting to see which other major apps (like YouTube and Snapchat) are interested in doing away with boring old profile shots as part of their mobile arms-race.

The vertical video revolution is in full swing, and as these titans clash for control, be ready to sit back and film the ensuing battle for supremacy (vertically, of course).

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