YouTube has a new look. Google is experimenting with a new, cleaner design for the all-conquering video-sharing site, called Cosmic Panda. Quite what starborn lazy bears have to do with video is beyond us, but the site certainly looks nice. With all the new designs Google’s rolling out for its sites the search engine giant is now waving its styling wand over YouTube. The new design was released last Thursday. Anyone can try it out on www.youtube.com/cosmicpanda.
Gone is that white background underneath the video player, replaced by a less-distracting dark gray backdrop. At the bottom of that frame are four new icons that let you conveniently change the video frame size. There are new page designs and improved editing tools to customize channels. Best of all, when you’re using Google Chrome, you can keep one video playing while you’re looking for others, switching between channels or playlists.
Users will find it easier to customize channels because the playlists and channel lists have been moved to a bar below the player. Google Chrome users can switch channels or playlists and still keep the video playing. Editing a channel template is easier too with a choice of layouts for more discerning users and a general-use template for everything else.
Another improvement is the ability to choose whether you see comments or not, with buttons allowing you to dismiss comments and fill the page below the video player with suggested videos that are each in larger frames. In addition, Cosmic Panda makes it easier to edit a channel template, giving users a choice of layouts for creators, bloggers, networks and a general-use template Google calls “everything.”
The YouTube player is still the same player from the old interface with all the same disadvantages like having no way to skip forward or backward. The slider in the Cosmic Panda is actually a bit smaller than that of the old version.
Channels now offers an even more massive thumbnail for each video. The new bigger thumbnails look great but they do mean you have to scroll further to go through the list.
If you use Google’s own web browser Chrome — which many of you do — you can browse channels and playlists while watching a video.
Unfortunately, Google’s YouTube player has retained the old transport controls from the previous YouTube interface, and there’s no icon to click to incrementally skip forward or backward. You can still do that with the slider control underneath the video, but as you can see in our gallery of screenshots below, on this new version, the zone where you can click to skip forward or backward is even smaller than that area on the old version.
Even with those quibbles, I think the new YouTube interface is a significant improvement over the current one. What do you think? Go ahead, try it yourself at Google’s Cosmic Panda page. And don’t worry — if you don’t like it, you can easily change back to the old YouTube interface.