Last year Google launched a startup incubator called Area 120, which was designed to give its employees a place within the company to flesh out their own ideas. At South by Southwest, we got a look at the first project to come out of it, and somewhat surprisingly, it’s an invitation-only, iOS-exclusive app for watching and sharing YouTube videos.
Called Uptime, the free app is sort of like a souped-up comments section for just your friends. As you watch a video you’ll see a series of floating avatars around the border (including your own), and you can record your reactions in real time with text, emoji, stickers, or likes. It’s similar to how Facebook Live and Periscope let you respond to broadcasts in real time, but applying it to prerecorded videos is an interesting concept, and the quirky interface seems tailor-made for encouraging engagement.
And that’s pretty much it. There’s no way to record or create videos within the app, and Area 120 is promoting the app as “a place to share and watch videos together with friends no matter where they are.” In addition to real-time commenting, the app will also let you find and follow people, browse your YouTube history, and share clips.
Anyone can download the app but you’ll need an invitation code to get in. Area 120 has been tweeting out invite codes from its official Twitter account, with the most recent one being SUNNY. Area 120 has not announced whether an Android version of the app will be released.
Watch this space: Uptime might not seem like much now, but it’s an interesting concept that could have an ace up its sleeve. With the impending launch of YouTube TV, Google could opt to incorporate Uptime into the streaming app to create a fun new level of engagement for cord-cutters. There was a time when we all gathered around the TV with our friends and family for major broadcast events, and Uptime could be a way for the connected generation to do the same, whether they’re watching something live or not.
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Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.