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YouTube launches Leanback for home TV viewing

User interface experiment to solve the '10 foot' problem

Online video sharing website YouTube has launched a new user interface option, dubbed 'Leanback'. Designed to be more easily browsable at a distance than the site's default layout, the design has sparked speculation that it is intended to complement the first generation of Google TV devices.

The new interface should help YouTube overcome the so-called "10 foot" problem, where interfaces which are highly effective at short distances become unusable with a remote over longer distances. To combat this, applications like Boxee and Windows Media Center use a simplified menu navigation system coupled with large icons and typography. According to a YouTube blog post by Senior Product Manager Kuan Yong announcing the new feature, "Just as its name implies, YouTube Leanback is all about letting you sit back, relax and be entertained... Watching YouTube becomes as easy as watching TV."

However, the new design goes one step further than other media players designed for TV screens. The stream of videos that greets new users is generated from their preferences and video viewing history, using friend connections and Facebook integration to create a personalised playlist of content. "Videos tailored to your interests play as soon as you visit the site and they play in full screen and high definition, continuously," says the blog entry. "There's no need to click, search, or browse, unless you want to, of course."

Navigating the videos uses the keyboard exclusively. The left and right arrow keys skip forwards and backwards through videos, pressing pressing up accesses player controls to pause, rewind and fast forward an individual video. Pressing the down key brings up a list of categories, allowing users to play top rated and popular videos.

The feature is still in beta, you can check it out at

Of course, being YouTube, there's a demo video.