YouTube experiment transforms video thumbnails into GIFs

Google is testing a new feature on YouTube that will greatly enhance the browsing experience: animated video thumbnails that offer a snippet of what the video contains. This experiment is arriving for only some users that access the service on desktop, though we may see them expand to everyone in the future. The preview creation process is automated for now; the creators themselves aren't 'currently' able to create the previews themselves.

The new experiment was revealed on the YouTube Help Forum, where user 'YT Kat' explained that the company is enhancing the way its users make their 'video watching decisions.' The number of users who see these three-second GIF previews is small but said to be growing, indicating that YouTube is expanding the number of users who have access to it. The feature isn't available on YouTube's mobile apps (yet?).

The preview only plays if the user hovers their mouse over the video while on a search results page. If the feature does arrive for everyone — something that hasn't been promised, mind — it is indicated that creators themselves may get to choose which three seconds are transformed into the preview. The use of the word 'currently' also seems to indicate that these GIF previews may one day arrive on mobile.

The GIF previews are presently presented on Chrome version 32 and higher and Opera version 19 and higher; they show up on the search results page, the home page, the watch page, the subscriptions tab, and the trending tab. A timeframe for when this feature will roll out more broadly wasn't provided, nor any word about whether this will become a permanent feature (though it seems likely it will).

SOURCE: YouTube Help Forum