Even though much of the discussion surrounding online video seems to center on Netflix, it’s easy to forget just how incredibly influential YouTube remains as a video powerhouse. In 2014, for instance, the Google-owned property was the third most visited website in the entire world.
Still, it’s not as if YouTube has been raking in the dough. Though revenue from YouTube now check in at around $4 billion annually, that’s just barely enough for the site to break even. One of the monetization problems that has long plagued YouTube is that many consumers happen to view YouTube videos from within Facebook or embedded within other websites. In short, not as many people were heading on over YouTube.com as a starting point for viewing video. Additionally, YouTube was experiencing problems keeping viewers on the site for long stints of time.
That being the case, one of the ways YouTube has been trying to make the video site more profitable is by making the site as “sticky” as possible.
Now in order to do this, YouTube had to roll out some new technologies which entailed reworking the site’s entire backend. In a fascinating piece published over at Fast Company, John Paul Titlow dives deep into much of the behind-the-scenes work YouTube undertook in order to make things easier for YouTube developers to roll out new consumer-friendly viewing options.
So in 2012, the company undertook a massive, cross-department initiative to fix those problems. Code-named InnerTube, the project, which Google has not previously discussed, would tackle everything from its development platform to its machine learning algorithms, a retooling that would enable engineers and designers to more quickly test and craft a more engaging, addictive experience on more screens. “This is a change that we had to make if YouTube was going to continue as an important thing on the Internet,” says Goodrow of the ongoing InnerTube project. “We had to become a destination.”
As a result of the infrastructure changes made to the underlying YouTube code, engineers were given more leeway to roll out changes to the site at a faster clip. This especially proved beneficial when new changes to the site didn’t perform as well as anticipated and needed to be replaced quickly.
Another interesting point centers on the algorithm changes YouTube implemented in order to improve upon YouTube’s recommendation engine.
Titlow’s entire piece is well worth a read as it provides a number of interesting insights into the tremendous work that goes into making YouTube one of the more popular and compelling sites on the web.