Here's how the video streaming platform will change and evolve in 2021

For the sake of writing this story, I just checked my iPhone screen time and this week I'm averaging 8 hours 11 minutes daily—that's pretty appalling, isn't it? And that figure doesn't even include the eight hours a day I'm glued to my laptop, working from home. But clocking eight hours on my phone in my spare time everyday doesn't surprise me at all. I've been in tier four lockdown in the UK since mid-December and consume nearly all  media—news, television, movies, social, longform, short form, as well as engage in any communication with friends and family—on my phone. And my number one, most-used app every single day? YouTube (followed by TikTok, Instagram, and Clubhouse). 

Not that long ago, YouTube was widely considered mid-Millennial and Gen Z turf, with Gen X and Boomer interlopers rounding out the demographics in casual use, likely a byproduct of Google search results for How Tos, news, and product reviews. But since early 2020, with so many people all around the world on home lockdown, the platform's popularity has surged to new heights—more than two billions monthly users, to be precise—not only as a destination for video and streaming entertainment, but as an increasingly popular social networking and community space, as well as a vehicle for entrepreneurs and personal brand-builders interested in leveraging YouTube's vast suite of monetization tools for both personal and professional gain. 

Related: People Are Obsessed With This Walking Around Video Trend on YouTube

Today, YouTube's Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan posted the company's plans for product enhancements this year. "Today, with video becoming an even more important part of our daily lives, the needs of viewers are evolving faster than ever," Mohan wrote. "To meet these demands in the year ahead, we’re looking to redefine how the world experiences video. You can think of YouTube as a global stage for video: Like any good stage manager, our job is to create the best setting for our creators and the best viewing experience for our audience."

Whether you're an avid content consumer, a creator, a business- or a brand-builder, here's what you need to know about what's coming to YouTube in 2021.

  • YouTube TV in 4K: While still only available in the United States, YouTube TV has grown its user base to 3 million paid subscriptions, and streams more than 85 networks, with unlimited DVR storage. This year, the company will launch 4K TV streaming and the ability to watch DVRed programmes offline.
  • Improved YouTube Music recommendations: The company will continue to enhance its music streaming service by offering "more personalized mixes" and improving the discoverability of user-created playlists.
  • Better safety measures for children: A new suite of parental tools in YouTube Kids will give families peace of mind when children are using the video platform.
  • Enhanced navigation tools: Skip forward to exactly where you want to go in a video using one-click jumps to chapters. Also look out for an improved tablet experience later this year.
  • New VR homepage: A new YouTube VR app homepage will launch, featuring improved navigation and functionality.
  • Short-form video tools: Currently available in beta in India, YouTube's Shorts tool "lets creators and artists shoot snappy videos with nothing but their mobile phones." This tool was designed to help new creators get their channels off the ground easier. The tool will launch in beta in the United States next. 
  • New monetization tools: In addition to the YouTube Partner Program, the platform will launch an "applause" feature that allows fans to tip their favourite creators directly. YouTube will also launch an integrated shopping tool so viewers can shop directly from creators without leaving the YouTube ecosystem.
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