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“YouTube has always thought of itself as being about video, but for many of us it’s mostly been about community,”

Hank Green, founder and CEO of VidCon and co-founder of the vlogbrothers channel on YouTube

YouTube has become utterly synonymous with online video. Its content can be found all over the Web and embedded in hundreds of millions of posts across nearly every social media outlet. With more than one billion users, every other video-housing website on the Internet pales in comparison to YouTube’s dominance.

Where YouTube and Google (or should we say Alphabet?) have failed to rule supreme is in the realm of social media. While the site does provide users with a comments section to interact within, it has given content creators and their followers very little in the way of interacting via other forms of media such as images, gifs, blogs, articles, and so forth. Up until recently, the biggest name in digital video has, essentially, been sending its creators and users off to other social properties to continue conversations sparked by videos and to engage in new discussions altogether.

In late August, rumors began swirling that YouTube would be casting forth new social features to retain their stars and audiences from venturing to other platforms. At the time, the new component was slated to be called “YouTube Backstage.”

Roughly two weeks after the revelations originally broke, on Sept. 13, YouTube finally confirmed the legitimacy of the new element, yet has ditched the “Backstage” branding.

YouTube’s newest trait, now dubbed as “YouTube Community,” helps the Google property to make the transition from video website to full-blown social network. In the company’s blog post about the element, it was stated that:

“The brand new Community tab on your YouTube channel gives you a new, simple way to engage with your viewers and express yourself beyond video. Now you can do things like text, live videos, images, animated GIFs and more, giving you easier, lightweight ways to engage with your fans more often in between uploads, in real time.”

The ultimate goal of implementing these more interactive features to the site is clear: Stop creators and users from departing for websites like Facebook, Instagram, and others.

Appearing quite similar to Facebook Timelines or Twitter feeds, YouTube’s new Community tab appears complete with comments and likes on each “status update.”

The video juggernaut has been quietly testing the new addition over the past several months with a small group of creators to acquire criticisms and evaluations. It wasn’t until mid-September that the service went into public beta with the same group and is expected to be expanded to others in the “months ahead.”

Some of the video makers that are involved in this limited group include John and Hank Green of vlogbrothers, The Key of Awesome, Vsauce3, and The Game Theorists, among several others. You can check out what the new Community tab looks like for yourself by checking out any of those channel links.

When it comes to creators leveraging the new tool, Hank from vlogbrothers stated in a recent video that their channel would be used to inform subscribers about feature updates, events, and to post other amusing materials.

On the user side of things, subscribers will simply see a “Community” tab on participating channels when logged on to a desktop device. On mobile, postings from this section will populate in the “Subscriptions” feed. Additionally, subscribers of a channel can opt to receive push notifications about these posts.

This new rollout is huge news for YouTube, and Google itself, seeing as social interaction has always been one of YouTube’s weakest points and Google has had many, many failed attempts at entering the social media world. By integrating social synergy straight onto its already wildly successful video platform, the company stands a much greater chance at rivaling sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which have recently been venturing deeply into video content, taking away watch time from YouTube’s site. More than that, however, is that the Community feature gives content creators a way to engage their audiences on YouTube in a much quicker fashion than it currently allows.

YouTube could not have rolled this feature out at a better time. Not only are other social platforms beginning to encroach on YouTube’s video territory, but the platform has recently been on the receiving end of some serious backlash regarding the demonetization of videos all across the site. Many significant YouTube personalities have been extremely vocal about the matter and have even threatened to leave the site for competing services.

Controversies aside, there has never been a better time for small businesses to begin creating video content. Not only does this form of content engage viewers at a much higher rate, but with YouTube’s new community tab it becomes less necessary for SMBs to maintain a plethora of social channels simultaneously, whereas they can now focus on building out a full on community (no pun intended) on YouTube; a critical time-saver for already thinly-stretched brand owners.

Only time will tell, however, if this new feature will actually be of interest to YouTube users or if it will epically go down in flames like so many of Google’s other attempts at social media. It should be expected for this feature to be the most viable option for an entry into social networking as YouTube already caters to about one-third of the entire global Internet populace. The question is, will it be engaging and exciting enough for anyone to care? The answer to this question should be revealed in the coming months as YouTube begins to expand the offering to more creators.