Like most top social media platforms, YouTube has become a household name. It's nearly impossible to go through life without hearing about one of Android's most used apps. But YouTube is more than a video-sharing platform, it's also a universe of creativity, learning, self-expression, and other interesting and inspiring content. Getting started with YouTube and taking advantage of everything it offers can be overwhelming. Even if you've been using it for years, it might feel like you're just scratching the surface.
This AP guide to YouTube walks you through everything from creating and customizing your channel to navigating the interface. Plus, we highlight some of the coolest features of the YouTube Android app to make things even easier on your smartphone or go-to Android tablet. Let's get started!
A brief history of YouTube
YouTube was founded in February 2005 by three former PayPal employees: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. They wanted to create an online platform where users could upload and share videos with the world, and they succeeded. The first video uploaded to YouTube was 19 seconds long. It was titled "Me at the zoo" and featured co-founder Jawed Karim giving a brief commentary on the elephants at the San Diego Zoo.
YouTube quickly gained popularity and was acquired by Google in November 2006 for $1.65 billion. From there, the platform continued to grow and expand, with more users uploading videos and more content creators joining the platform. Today, YouTube is the second-most visited website in the world and has over 2.5 billion monthly active users.
The importance of YouTube in today's digital landscape
YouTube is important in today's digital landscape. With many active users, it's the go-to platform for long-form video content. YouTube competes with TikTok in the short-form video space with YouTube Shorts. They've gained traction and popularity, showing that YouTube isn't afraid to evolve and compete with newer platforms.
YouTube allows you to showcase your talents and reach a broad audience from different parts of the world. With over a hundred countries and eighty languages, anyone can access your content anytime and anywhere. So, if your videos are enjoyable, you have a chance to be seen by millions of people.
Lastly, YouTube offers monetization opportunities for its users (once you meet the eligibility requirements), which means you can potentially earn money from your content. This can come from advertising revenue, brand partnerships, and merchandise sales. You probably know a handful of people who have successful careers as YouTubers, and just as it's possible for them, it's also possible for you.
Logging in to YouTube
To use YouTube, you'll need a Google account. You might be wondering why. Since Google owns YouTube and YouTube requires a Google account to log in to its services, there's no other way around it. It doesn't have to be your main Google account; you can create a Google account specifically for YouTube use.
You can also use YouTube without an account, but you won't get the full personalized experience. With an account, you can subscribe to channels, receive notifications when your favorite creators post, get recommended videos based on your viewing history, create playlists, access your search history, and more.
Customizing your YouTube channel
If you plan to use YouTube for more than watching content, customize your channel to showcase your brand, attract viewers, and gain subscribers. Even if you don't plan to create content, adding personality to your channel can help you stand out and connect with others in the YouTube community. Whatever you decide, here are a few basics to get you started.
Create a channel name
Your channel name is the name that appears on your channel and videos. It should be easy to remember and relevant to your brand or content. When creating a personal channel, consider using your real name or a name that reflects your personality.
Choose a channel handle
Your channel handle is part of the URL that directs users to your channel. They can find you on YouTube by adding this handle to the end of the youtube.com URL (for example, youtube.com/@AndroidPolice). They can also use it to tag your channel on YouTube. You'll also need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for a custom URL, such as having 100 subscribers and a channel that is at least 30 days old.
Write something in the About section
In this section, you can briefly describe your channel and what viewers can expect from your content. While many people may not look at this section of your channel, having something there is still a good idea. You can also add links to your website and social media accounts and a contact email address in Settings, which will also show here.
How to edit your channel name, handle, and description from a desktop browser
- Click the profile icon in the upper-right corner of the page and click Your channel from the menu.
- On your channel page, click Customize channel on the right side of the page.
- On the Channel Customization page, click the Basic info tab.
- Update your channel name in the first field. This name is only visible on YouTube.
- Update your channel handle in the second field. You get up to 50 characters, and it lets you know if what you're trying to use is taken.
- Update your channel description in the third field. You get up to 1,000 characters.
- Add your links and contact email address on this page before leaving.
- Click the Publish button on the right side when done to update your channel.
How to edit your channel name, handle, and description from the Android app
- Tap the profile icon in the upper-right corner of the screen and click Your channel from the menu.
- Tap the edit icon (looks like a pen) next to the Manage videos and Analytics buttons.
- Tap the edit buttons next to the name, handle, and description to customize them.
- For each item that you edit, tap Save to update your channel.
Add a channel picture and banner
These graphics represent you on the YouTube platform. So, choose a profile picture that represents you or your brand and a banner that reflects the style or theme of your channel. Your profile picture should be at least 98 x 98 pixels and 4MB or less, and your banner should be at least 2048 x 1152 pixels and 6MB or less.
In a desktop browser, these options are under the Branding tab on the Channel Customization page.
On the Android app, you'll need to edit your channel (in the same place you edit your name, handle, and description). At the top of the screen, you'll see camera icons on the profile picture and banner areas. Tapping those allows you to take a live photo or choose one from your device's photos (be sure to edit the photo before uploading).
Navigating YouTube's interface
Now that you've successfully set up your YouTube channel and made it look inviting, it's time to familiarize yourself with the rest of the website. For instance, how do you narrow the search results to find what you're looking for? Keep reading to find out!
Homepage and personalized recommendations
The homepage is where the magic happens. Thanks to YouTube's algorithm, it suggests videos you're likely to watch and enjoy. It's based on several factors, like your viewing history and preferred topics. If you've watched baking tutorials lately, you'll likely see recommendations for a video titled "The Ultimate Cake Baking Secrets."
If you're feeling adventurous, check out the categories at the top of the homepage (on both the desktop and app). These vary depending on your location and interests. So, if you're looking for galactic wonders or exploring cooking programs, select the appropriate category and get more of what you're interested in. It's that simple! When you start using YouTube, the categories are generic. But as you watch more videos, they change to fit your interests.
Subscriptions and notifications
When you subscribe to a channel by clicking the Subscribe button under the video player, new videos from that creator show up in your Subscriptions tab. This is a great place to go when you only want to see the latest videos from the channels you're interested in without any of YouTube's recommendations.
If you want to know when your favorite creator makes a post, the notification bell is your best friend. Give it a "ring," and you're alerted via email and push notifications when they upload new content. This way, you won't miss a thing. To do this, subscribe to the channel and tap the Subscribe button to see the notification options (you can select all, personalized, or none).
YouTube search and filters
The search bar on YouTube is super useful, and you'll probably end up using it a lot. Just type in what you're looking for and press Enter, and you'll get a list of videos that match your search. You can also use the filters at the top to narrow your results. Tap the three dots in the upper-right corner of the screen on the mobile app to find the search filters option. You can sort by things like upload date or video length to help you find exactly what you want.
YouTube's video player and its features
The YouTube video player has some cool tricks up its sleeve. You have the power to control everything from the video quality to the playback speed, and you can turn on subtitles/closed captions or kick back and watch in full-screen mode. If you'd like a cinematic viewing experience on a desktop browser, activate theater mode, which stretches the video to the full width of the page.
Or, if you prefer to watch the video while continuing to browse the rest of the YouTube website, switch to the miniplayer view. And don't forget about the Like and Dislike buttons underneath the video player. They're perfect for letting the YouTube community and creator know how you feel about a video.
Worthwhile YouTube Android app features
The YouTube app for Android is full of features that'll make your video streaming experience even better. Don't let your phone screen's size discourage you. YouTube made the Android app just as great (and in some areas even better) as the desktop version. Here are a few handy features that are worth checking out.
Double tap to skip forward or back
Have you ever tried to skip through a video only to find that the scrub bar doesn't cut it? An invaluable feature that can make your life easier is the double tap. By double-tapping the right or left half of the video, you can skip forward or back by 10 seconds. If you want to skip or go back even more, repeat the gesture a few times. Plus, you can customize the skip period, ranging from five seconds to a minute, in the Android app settings (under General).
YouTube's default setting is to play the next video automatically, which can keep you glued to the screen for longer than you intended (or sometimes play videos you're not interested in). If you want more control over your video playlist, tap the video player window and then tap the autoplay button in the upper-right corner. Toggle it off, and you're set.
If you want to turn off the autoplay feature for all videos, adjust this setting in the app's Autoplay option, which can be found within the app's Settings. By toggling it off permanently, you'll have greater control over your video-watching experience without worrying about the next video playing automatically.
Clear and pause your search history
Although the search history on YouTube can be a useful tool, it can also reveal potentially embarrassing moments. If you value privacy, pausing or clearing your search history is a good idea. To do this, tap the profile icon in the upper-right corner of the screen and tap Your data in YouTube in the menu. From there, you can manage and control your search history to ensure your privacy and confidentiality.
Swipe up for related videos
Swipe up on the screen when you're watching a video in full-screen mode and want to find more videos related to what you're watching. This brings up a list of related and recommended videos that you might find interesting. YouTube's recommendation system is reliable and can keep you entertained for hours. If you find a video that catches your eye, tap it to play it.
That's a wrap!
You've made it to the end and have a strong foundation for your YouTube experience. It's time to take your knowledge and apply it. Start by browsing the recommended categories at the top of the homepage or searching for some of your favorite creators. Don't forget to engage with the content you watch by leaving comments, rating videos, and sharing videos you enjoy. And be sure to check out some of YouTube's awesome (and hidden) features to up your YouTube game. It's all about making the experience your own.