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Facebook Is Building Its Own YouTube Inside Facebook

Would you like a "dedicated place on Facebook for people to go when they exclusively want to watch video"? It's coming.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Facebook has started serving up billions and billions of videos to its users by placing the clips in their feeds, between pictures of your friends’ kids and stories about people who don’t have kids.

But what if you wanted to watch a video on Facebook, without looking at kids or reading about them? Like you can on YouTube?

Now Facebook is going to let you do that, too: The social network says it is testing a “dedicated place on Facebook for people to go when they exclusively want to watch video,” which will help “people discover, watch and share videos on Facebook that are relevant to them.”

Just like you can do on YouTube, the world’s biggest video site.

The parallels between the two platforms aren’t a coincidence, and Facebook’s announcement is one that video industry insiders have expected for at least a year, starting when Facebook began its video push in earnest: If Facebook was going to really take on YouTube for video viewers’ time — and, eventually, advertisers’ dollars — then it would have to offer an experience like YouTube, where you could go look for things you want, instead of waiting for Facebook to show you something you didn’t know you wanted.

Facebook says the videos you will see in its dedicated hub inside the Facebook app — the feature doesn’t have a Facebookian name yet — will be generated based on clips that you’ve saved or watched or that friends have forwarded to you. The company will also stock it with some topical clips based on current events. While Facebook doesn’t describe how that will happen, it’s reasonable to assume it will be algorithmically generated in a similar manner to Facebook’s “trending” items.

So here it comes. You can get a sense of how it works at the 43-second mark in this video, which also references other tweaks Facebook is making to its video offerings (more on that below). For now, though, most of you won’t actually see it: Facebook says only a “small number of people” will see the feature.

The key question for Facebook and the rest of the video world is whether Facebook’s users will actually want to take advantage of a lean-in offering, as opposed to the lean-back-and-we’ll-show-you-something-that-will-occupy-you approach that has worked very, very well for Facebook for years. If they do, it means Facebook could have full parity with YouTube and a distribution mechanism that YouTube doesn’t have, which could be devastating.

In the meantime, Facebook is still experimenting with other approaches. The company says it is expanding its “suggested video” feature, which gives video watchers the chance to see other, related clips. It also gives advertisers a chance to show their clips, and video producers a chance to share some of that revenue.

It’s unclear whether that’s working or not, but Facebook says it’s going well enough that it will offer the feature to most of its iPhone users and will bring it to Android users “in the coming months.”

Facebook says it will start letting people watch clips on a floating screen while continuing to scroll through Facebook — another thing you can do on YouTube.

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