How YouTube should display vertical videos.

People Are Going to Film Vertical Videos. Deal With It.

People Are Going to Film Vertical Videos. Deal With It.

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 15 2015 9:19 AM

The Cure for Vertical Video Syndrome

I cringe a bit whenever I see a parent holding a phone vertically at school events. I am silently grateful that I'm not related and won't feel compelled to watch that video.

I’m not alone. Those ranting against vertical videos equate them to “everything wrong with society” and label them a dangerous syndrome. But the truth is that vertical videos aren't going away. In fact,  some subjects may arguably be better suited to portrait orientation—juggling demos? Talking head interviews? Solo saxophone performances?

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Whatever the subject, vertical views are here and building. Digiday wrote in April "It’s time to take vertical video seriously," pointing at the rise of Periscope, Snapchat, and Meerkat. Periscope doesn’t even offer a horizontal display option. Advertisers are creating ads for vertical presentation as well.

The problem is the viewing experience when you're not watching on a phone.

If your friend pulls out her phone to show you the video she took of her kid reading out loud, it works. It's shown the same way that she saw it when she shot the video.

When she uploads that same video to YouTube and you view it on your laptop, it's displayed with huge borders on the left and right side. Most of the frame of the video player is showing something other than your friend's precocious kid!

It's time that YouTube acknowledges the reality of vertical video and gives us a decent experience for watching. These mockups show that YouTube can give us a vertical player and still provide us with all they currently do, including the infamous YouTube comments.

150605_VerticalVideo
Top: How YouTube currently displays vertical videos. Bottom: How it should display vertical videos

Mockup by Slate. Photos by Thinkstock.

If merely providing a better experience for its users isn't enough for YouTube, there’s a new app, Vervid, that wants to be "the YouTube for vertical videos.” Watch out, YouTube.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Doug Harris is Slate’s director of technology. He lives in Washington, D.C.