A few minutes ago an email dropped into my in-box from YouTubeDesktop.com — a product that I’d never heard of before — inviting me to try out their private beta. Claiming to be “something special”, that many developers had said was “programmatically impossible”, I willingly put down my coffee and fired up Firefox.
The idea behind YouTube Desktop is to bring a desktop application experience to navigating and viewing YouTube videos through a web browser.
Windows can be dragged, resized, minimized in a tray, and videos can be dragged ‘n’ dropped between players and results. Key features include the ability to create playlists — again via drag ‘n’ drop — share video links with friends, and perhaps controversially, download and save YouTube videos to your PC — avi, mp4, mov, 3gp, wmv, flv, exe, “all converted on the fly”.
The end result, say the developers, is that YouTube Desktop provides a more convenient and easier way of browsing through the enormous amount of content available on YouTube.
Two areas where YouTube Desktop may run into legal trouble, however, is with their name — which could cause trademark issues — and the way the site enables users to save YouTube videos to their PC. With regards to the latter, as we’ve previously noted, many video sharing sites, including YouTube, have terms and conditions that may prohibit third parties from offering such a service.
There’s no doubt that YouTube Desktop is impressive technically, with some complex AJAX going on under the hood, which worked flawlessly in Firefox on a Mac (I haven’t yet taken the time to try out the site on other platforms and browsers). Also, by using a desktop metaphor, the application is incredibly easy to grasp because you feel right at home dragging ‘n’ dropping videos into a playlist or minimizing and resizing windows on the fly. Whether or not this makes YouTube Desktop more efficient at navigating the enormous amount of content on YouTube, I’m not so sure, as you’re still left with categories and a search box as your primary means of locating videos. Having said that, the site’s UI does feel a lot less cluttered than YouTube itself.