Over the past few months, YouTube has redesigned its apps across multiple platforms and shared a preview for a broader revamp of the web experience. YouTube is now beginning to widely A/B test a video preview feature when you hover over a thumbnail.
Since launch, YouTube TV has rather effectively used thumbnail previews to convey the live nature of on-demand channels and networks. Available on both the web and the mobile apps, these previews automatically play in the main Home and Live tab.
In contrast, the latest A/B test for YouTube on the web is more subdued. Previews only play after hovering a cursor over the video. This makes for a less distracting experience, while retaining the use of thumbnails/title cards in videos.
While thumbnail previews are not available on mobile, they are available on mostly every part — Home page, Search results page, Watch page, Subscriptions tab, and Trending tab — of the web site, save for channel pages.
Video previews run for 3 seconds and are available on most videos that are over 30 seconds. These clips are selected from the first half of a video and are determined by a system that looks to provide the “best idea of what your video is about.”
These live previews appear to have rolled out several weeks ago, but is only now seeing a wider A/B test as of yesterday. The feature is live for several users who are using the new opt-in YouTube web interface. However, it is even live for some on the older interface.