YouTube just got a major update — here's all the new features

YouTube open on an Android phone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

YouTube just got a refresh, and at first glance, the new design looks pretty clean.

YouTube announced today that there will be several changes coming to how the video streaming platform works on your devices. The majority of these changes are about how the user interface looks when you’re on YouTube.

The platform’s dark theme is getting darker — borderline pitch black — and YouTube is introducing ambient mode to give videos a more enjoyable viewing experience. This feature adds a subtle hint of color based on the video you’re watching and is designed to recreate how light casts out from a television screen in a darkened room. Ambient mode is also coming to playlists in this update. 

YouTube feature updates

(Image credit: YouTube)

In addition to darkening the screen around the video, the text around the video is getting diminished in focus. Links in the description and buttons such as like and share are getting reformatted so they aren’t so attention-grabbing on the video page. Conversely, the subscribe button is getting a redesign to ensure it stands out, encouraging you to subscribe when you come across engaging content.

Unfortunately, it seems that these features haven’t rolled out to everyone just yet (I was unable to recreate them in Chrome or the YouTube Android app), so we will need to wait to see how they actually work. Still, these small improvements will hopefully lead to an experience that puts more focus on the videos and less focus on more distracting elements of the user interface.

All the changes coming to YouTube 

YouTube update across multiple devices

(Image credit: YouTube)

Aside from ambient mode, dark theme updates and reformatting the action buttons, there are a couple more changes coming to YouTube. First, pinch to zoom is coming to all users. This allows you to pinch a video to zoom in or out on iOS or Android. Once zoomed, you do not need to hold the pinch to keep the video zoomed. Simply let go and it will lock in place. 

YouTube feature updates

(Image credit: YouTube)

Additionally, precise seeking is getting an update. Currently, if seeking through a video on YouTube you get a single thumbnail previewing where you are seeking to in the video. Now, you get a row of thumbnails to ensure you end up exactly where you want to be. This follows previous seeking feature updates such as being able to see the most replayed parts of a video and section-specific (sometimes auto-generated) chapters. 

If you want to get the latest YouTube features before major updates like this you’ll want to make sure you have YouTube Premium. This service allows you to eliminate ads, get new features before anyone else and even save videos for offline viewing. YouTube Premium just increased some of its pricing but some of our staff think it's the only streaming service worth paying for. Hard to imagine these new features do anything but improve their experience. 

Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.

  • CarolCarol
    Leave out the most basic, common of functions (like simple pinch/zoom) ... ignore the omission for YEARS... then (finally) add it... and we're supposed to say "wow! what a great new feature!"?

    And even TomsGuide doesn't see the obvious in the "major update".

    This should have been titled "YouTube FINALLY adds the basic stuff they could have added years ago".