Do we need another messenger? YouTube me later, OK?!

YouTube Messenger
If a pilot project is successful, YouTube subscribers will soon be able to message each other

Who needs another messaging app? YouTube thinks we do.

The Google-owned company is testing a chat element in its smartphone app, AP reports. The new feature is an attempt to get users to spend more time on the app, and perhaps prevent them from leaving to rivals such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Trial access

Announced on Friday, the option is now restricted to a small group of people using the YouTube iPhone app. The move is part of a test to see if people spend more time inside the app, AP said. Currently people typically copy links to YouTube and paste them into text messages or other messaging apps such as Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

Individual revenues for YouTube aren’t available, since Google’s parent company Alphabet does not break these out. UBS analyst Eric Sheridan estimates that YouTube grossed $8.5 billion (Dh31.22 billion) in 2015, as compared to Google websites’ total gross of $52.4 billion. He projects that those numbers could treble to $27.4 billion by 2020, as time spent watching videos grows worldwide.

Other YouTube attempts to raise non-advertising revenues include the launch last year of YouTube Red, a paid subscription service that is currently not available in the UAE, and Unplugged, a bundle of cable TV channels streamed over the internet that will reportedly be debuted in 2017.

More choice

“We aim to provide more choice to YouTube fans — more ways for them to engage with creators and each other, and more ways for them to get great content,” Sundar Pichai, Google’s Chief Executive Officer, wrote in an letter to Alphabet shareholders last month, Bloomberg reports. “We’ve started down this journey with specialised apps like YouTube Kids, as well as through our YouTube Red subscription service.”

As of April, according to Statista, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the most popular apps, with one billion and 900 million users respectively, while QQ Mobile had 853 million users. But whether there’s space for another messenger service remains to be seen.