YouTube today formally rolled out YouTube Leanback. As the name suggests, Leanback allows you to actually lean back on a living room sofa and watch YouTube on a big TV screen. The 10-foot interface is designed to be used on Google TV or anything big with a long viewing distance. The layout features minimal set of controls, scraps the comments and many of the other visuals while making many common features available through keyboard shortcuts.
Leanback, which was previewed at Google I/O back in May, is an expansion of the basic idea in an earlier service called YouTube XL – which is still available, by the way. It runs in any browser that supports Flash and is designed to make watching YouTube feel a bit like watching a personalized TV channel. Videos display in full-screen mode, and you press the Up Arrow key to search and the Down Arrow key to reach playback controls.
Leanback starts playing a video ‘feed’ immediately after the page loads. The feed is based on your YouTube settings and preferences, including content from your subscriptions, videos your friends are sharing on Facebook and your search history. If you don’t like what’s playing, you can use the right arrow key on your keyboard to skip ahead to the next video, or try the up/down arrows to search, access player controls, and browse channels and videos.
Leanback is launched primarily for the Google TV, the first equipment of which are expected to arrive in a few weeks. Google TV hardware owners will have the option to set their devices to use Leanback the first time they load YouTube from the regular interface.
YouTube Leanback is really just another way of watching YouTube on the big screen. Media Center programs such as XBMC, Moovida or Boxee, which are already designed for the big screens, have plugins that offer a customized 10-foot interface for watching YouTube.