YouTube’s mobile app is annoying in some ways, but in others it’s notably ahead of the desktop. One example is picture-in-picture functionality, which lets users see the video they’re watching in a small window while they search for others.
According to 9to5Google, Google is now testing this on desktop, with a limited number of users receiving alpha access. It works as you’d expect, letting users click anywhere on YouTube and continue watching their video. The window displays title, as well as volume, restricted controls for easy adjustment.
Currently, users can’t disable the feature. Though they can close videos manually by clicking a cross in the corner, they can’t get rid of it completely. That’s something that could change, or the feature could be restricted to YouTube Red members.
Either way, it would be a big help to both consumers and creators. For those without a second monitor, it means the ability to browse without having to switch tabs. This should spur further discovery of videos and less reliance on playlists.
Of course, Google isn’t the first to come up with this idea for desktop. A number of third-party add-ons offer this functionality, most notably Iridium. It has video on every page, or when you scroll down to look at comments. Mac also offers PiP functionality on all HTML5 video.
However, add-on implementations can be annoying. You don’t usually watch the very end of a video, and oftentimes you’ll click back to your subscriptions and the end credits will still be playing.
Google’s implementation could be more intelligent about this, disabling the feature if the video is almost done or end annotations are present. With hope, this will also spur desktop development in other areas. The company’s recent redesign finally brings a dark theme, and hopefully more settings will follow.