YouTube has been implementing small changes the past few months. A notable change is the introduction of a dark theme for the web version, a new loading animation, and small animated previews of videos that play when you hover the mouse over a video thumbnail. YouTube has also updated its iOS and Android apps. The new update includes a chat feature. It’s built on top of the share functionality and requires you sign into YouTube with your Gmail account. It doesn’t automatically sync contacts from your Gmail account so you have the option to choose who you interact with. Here’s how to use YouTube chat on your iOS or Android phone.
Update the YouTube app and open it. There’s no dedicated ‘Chat’ or ‘Messages’ tab in the app so it’s a bit confusing how to get started.
Share A Video
Find a video you like and tap the share arrow under it. The share sheet will show you frequent contacts. These are pulled from your Gmail account however, they are not your YouTube contacts. You have to add them to YouTube. Your Gmail contacts and your phone contacts are treated separately. You can add contacts from your phone to YouTube.
Start A YouTube Chat Thread
Tap a contact in the share sheet to send them the video. If you want to add a contact from your phone, swipe to the end of the suggested contacts and tap ‘Add Contacts’. Allow the YouTube app to access your contacts, and then select a contact to share the video with. When you share a video with a contact, it starts a YouTube chat thread.
When you share a video with a contact, it sends them a request. The person must approve this request for the conversation to start.
As stated earlier, there is no ‘Chat’ or ‘Messages’ tab in the YouTube app. To start a conversation, you have to share a video but what if you want to go back to it? The UI seemingly has no way to do that but it is there, just poorly designed.
In the YouTube app, go to the Activity tab. Here you can see all your chat threads as well as contact requests. Tap a contact and start chatting. The app has group chat so you can add more than one person to a thread. Tap the overflow button at the top of a thread and tap ‘Add participants’ from the menu. If you want, you can delete a thread, or just mute notifications for it.
The Elephant In The Room
It needs to be said; no one asked for this feature. The YouTube comments section is one the worst places for online discourse. It’s so terrible that popular and seemingly harmless YouTube channels like the TED channel have to disable comments for some of their videos. The live chat featured alongside live videos is equally terrible and often full of bots. Does YouTube think these conversations will be any better simply because users are having them with contacts? Do people really need to have entire conversations around a YouTube video and can’t they have them in other chat apps? Viber now allows users to search for and send a YouTube video without leaving the app. This feature is pointless for the most part. You end up having to add your contacts again and random strangers can send you a request if they have your email.