YouTube users interested in waxing philosophical about the latest Rebecca Black or Odd Future single can now watch online videos with friends by clicking a button that lets them instantly start a Google+ Hangout videoconferencing session.
Available by clicking the “Share” button under videos and selecting “Start a Google+ Hangout,” choosing the option opens a pop-up Web browser window from within which friends can be added to the virtual party line. Although a feature previously available via Google+, YouTube’s addition of a button to its own site marks the first time such options have appeared on the video viewing service itself.
More importantly, if support for group sharing takes off, it may also herald a bright future for the concept of the social Internet viewing experience. Fast forward a few years, and the feature, which lets friends congregate around online shows like living room primetime favorites, could be embedded into websites as commonly as Facebook Like and Retweet buttons are today. Beyond providing an added thorn in cable companies’ sides by further underscoring TV’s limitations and online video’s advantages, such developments would also give Google+ a marked leg up over its previous social efforts.
Positioning the service to succeed where prior ventures Orkut and Buzz faltered, pulling in friends from Google+ Circles to watch classic or contemporary music videos, remixes and artist interviews could prove a killer app. Already the fastest-growing social network of its kind with over 25 million users, Google+ and its Hangout options could prove the catalyst that opens the doors for the social viewing phenomenon. Time will tell.