Earlier reports of YouTube foraying into the social networking world have now been confirmed with today’s release of the expanded ‘Community’ feature. The beta version of this new feature is now live and allows content creators to communicate with their fans(or audience) using text, GIFs, images and more in real-time.

The ‘YouTube Community’ will complement the original video platform and allow fans to engage in lightweight conversation with their favorite creators, in real-time between video uploads. It will help both the creators and viewers build a stronger bond, without having to leave in search of a suitable competing platform, such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

The functionality has been added to the channel in the form of a new ‘Community’ tab which gives creators an outlet to express themselves beyond video. Using the same, content creators can now dispense important information and news about an upcoming event or livestream. They can share the same in the form of text posts, images, GIFs and other content, which the audience can then react(like or dislike, similar to videos) and comment upon.

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Viewers will now have the option to view these posts in their ‘Subscription’ feed on the YouTube mobile application. It will also provide you with an option to receive community post notifications in addition to notifications about new uploads. This, however, could clutter your notification shade if you start getting notification about a post that you’ve engaged(liked, or commented) with.

Community is a special release for us because it represents the deepest product collaboration we’ve ever done with creators like you. We started by inviting creators in early to develop, in partnership with us, the tools they wanted to better engage with their fans.

says Kiley McEvoy, Senior Product Manager at YouTube.

The ‘Community’ feature is currently in beta, but YouTube has tapped some ‘fabulous’ early adaptors including John & Hank Green, to AsapSCIENCE, The Game Theorists, Karmin, The Key of Awesome, The Kloons, Lilly Singh, Peter Hollens, Rosianna Halse Rojas, Sam Tsui,Threadbanger, and VSauce3 to become a part of the program. The development of the community has received immense input and backing from long-time YouTuber brother duo John and Hank Green.

This is just a small step in the direction of integrating and finally expanding the scope of the platform beyond video content. YouTube is certainly expected to add new features based on creator and fan feedback in the coming months. It can also debut the ‘messaging’ feature which had been previously been spotted by a select group of users in the last couple of months. This feature will allow you to natively share videos with your friends without having to leave the platform.

This move by YouTube is aimed towards empowering creators with the tools to build a mini social network connected to their channels, and revolving around their video content. This will also help it take the fight back to Facebook who is agressively focused on its efforts to build upon the video content for its platform. It has, in the past year, launched various services, including support for 360 video and live streaming capabilities, to follow the paradigm shift towards video.

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