In a new ChromeOS.dev case study this past week, Google outlined the ongoing Youtube experiment that allows Premium subscribers to download and watch videos offline through their web browser on Chrome OS. The experiment runs until December 10, 2021, and normally, these tests are there and then gone. Once they expire, it’s usually a long while until the company rolls them out to all users, and in some cases, the features never see the light of day.
The beauty of the Youtube Experiments section is that the developers can test potential updates with some users, but without concerns of inconsistent user experiences across the board, and without expectation of release. That is currently the state of the “Download videos from your browser” test, but with this new case study blog post, Google speaks about it positively.
Watching videos offline on laptops and hybrid devices was one of the top requested features from YouTube Premium users, and the YouTube team has already heard great feedback about the offline experience. With the new PWA, YouTube Premium users can get nonstop access to the content they love — even when they’re on the go. A user can download their favorite creator’s latest videos to watch on their Chromebook on a plane, in a coffee shop, or anywhere they might not have a stable internet connection.
In fact, they speak about it so positively and discuss it as though it’s just a normal thing, never mentioning that it’s officially due to disappear in just a few weeks, that it’s hard to believe it’s going to disappear forever like some other experiments. While there is no official announcement of its wider rollout for Chromebook owners, I would wager that it does get pulled from the Experiments page for a while, but then gets reintroduced as an official feature with an attached announcement.
The new Youtube Progressive Web Application features new gestures with touch support in addition to mouse and keyboard interactions, double-tap to seek in the player, and voice search (previously an experiment as well) Not only that, but it also has Web Share, and Declarative Link Capturing, so that opening Youtube video links in the PWA and sharing them out of it feel more native than ever before.
Additionally, new App Shortcuts mean that right-clicking or pressing and holding the Youtube PWA icon on your Chromebook will reveal quick access to “Subscriptions”, and “Explore” just like the Android app! I want to reiterate that this case study isn’t confirmation of a wider rollout for the feature in Youtube, but it seems mighty strange to tout it, even for developers to pick apart and appreciate if it is only going to be temporary. I imagine that after the holidays, we could see this become a new normal on the web. Having the ability to use more PWAs offline, especially Youtube points to an exciting future for web apps!