YouTube’s offices in San Bruno, California are spectacular. Standing desks, couches, nap pods. Kitchens around every corner stocked with free food. I’m told there’s even a pool. It’s all par for the Silicon Valley course, really.
However, one thing inside The House Cat Videos Built feels out of place: one of the Wi-Fi networks crawlsat mind-numbing speed. When John Harding, YouTube’s VP of engineering, takes out atester phones and taps the YouTube icon, the app takes more than a minute to load. Asthe thumbnails and icons render, Harding pulls out another phone, connected to the same network. He taps the home screen to open something called “Video App.” It opens in seconds,a scrolling list of video thumbnails on a white background.
This app isn’t called “Video App” anymore. Startingtoday, it’s called YouTube Go, and it represents more than a year of work to rethink YouTubefor a new kind of user. The so-called “next billion” Internet users are comingonline, many of them in India, Indonesia, Brazil, and China. They aren’t like the users who came before. They have different devices, different connectivity, different social norms, different ideas about what the Internet is.
Spend enough time talking to Silicon Valley types and you’ll hear them say “we made something we’d want to use.” That’s why laundry startups proliferate. But what do you do when you’re making something for everyone else? If you’re YouTube, you sendyour engineers, researchers, and designers to India, Indonesia, Singapore, and beyond to find out how thenext billion will use YouTube, and how they might change the service forever.
The Human Network
India is one of many countries YouTube is targeting with Go, anda fairly representative one: It has more than a billion people occupying every socio-economic class and living in every imaginable setting. India also is uniquely enticing for any company looking for growth markets, says Forrester research director Ashutosh Sharma. “It’s a country of 1.25 or 1.3 billion, and only 200-250 million people have Internet connectivity,” he says. It’s also more open and accessible than, say, China. “There’s a growing middle class,” Sharma says, “and people crave foreign brands. It’s going to be even more open in coming years.”