The Scoop: YouNow is a veteran among livestreaming platforms, and it remains true to its original mission of forging friendships. Founded in 2011, the platform boasts tens of millions of users and continues to be a leader in an ever-developing scene. Jonathan Brodsky is the CEO of YouNow, and he talked to us about the platform and why it goes to great lengths to center on user experience. YouNow gives users a livestreaming service focused on personal expression and on-site connections.
I take the internet for granted every day. As I browse, swipe, and scroll, I realize the way I consume media would be out of the frame of understanding for a majority of the humans who have lived before today. Information, people, and ideas can now travel with unprecedented speed to any place with an internet connection. I was born in 2000 – I don’t even know a world without the internet.
Many of us use the internet so casually and frequently, it’s easy to forget how remarkable the invention actually is. Only 16% of the global population used the internet in 2005. By 2021, web users represented 63% of the world’s population. It seems the internet is going to be a part of the human experience for however long we can sustain it.
The advent of the internet has fundamentally changed how we experience the world and each other. It’s changed our standards for privacy and shifted expectations for communication and socialization. It’s changed how we apply to college, get hired at jobs, and network professionally. Dating and friendships have been deeply impacted by our use of the internet.
Livestreaming is one of those distinctly internet-age services. It allows users to broadcast themselves in real time to anyone, anywhere. YouNow is one of the oldest and most popular livestreaming platforms and is a user-friendly virtual location to discover new communities and meet interesting people.
Jonathan Brodsky is the CEO of YouNow. He took some time to discuss the platform, its communities and creators, and how everyone can get something meaningful from YouNow. In a market ripe with competitors, YouNow is distinguished from other livestreaming services by its focus on creating authentic and long-lasting relationships between users.
“Our main focus is taking the tens of thousands of new users we get every day and directing them to places on the platform where they can meet people and make friends,” Jonathan said. “There are people who have had friends through the platform for years and years, and we want to continue that.”
Livestreaming Enables Global Connections
Livestreaming, like so many other parts of the internet, has an interesting history marked by an intense resurgence in the 2010s. Media players capable of livestreaming existed by the early 1990s, and the creation of YouTube in 2005 put widely accessible video streaming on the table.
“YouNow is one of the oldest, which is awesome,” Jonathan said. “Twitch, which was called Justin.tv at the time, came out around the same time we were founded.” Justin.tv, which was a website created by Justin Kan in 2007, was the first site to push livestreaming into the mainstream. Pre-2007, Justin was broadcasting his daily life on a personal channel.
Just months before YouNow was founded by Adi Sideman, Justin.tv moved its gaming livestream category to a new site called Twitch.tv. YouNow has a legacy in the livestreaming world and has weathered the many storms of the internet marketplace. Since its launch, YouNow has had a distinct approach to livestreaming and how it wants users to interact with and on the platform.
“We have a different view of why people go live than some of the newer competitors,” Jonathan said. “Many are very heavily algorithmically based where it’s very fast-paced and centered around flipping through and finding the most entertaining thing.”
Entertainment can be found in abundance on YouNow, but Jonathan said the intended use for the platform goes a bit deeper. Like so much of our digital lives, many livestreaming platforms are marked by a quick and brief consumption of different pieces of media at a high pace. Oftentimes, this sort of internet usage can be tiring and turn into a social and emotional detriment for users.
“We are a place for people to make friends, and there is some stuff that’s really entertaining and creators who are making a living every day being super entertaining,” Jonathan said. “But our main focus is relationships. There are 61 million users, and we take user experience really seriously. We want to make sure it’s a place where people can be happy.”
YouNow Has Something for Everyone
YouNow’s different approach to livestreaming creates communities where people can meet people they want to get to know better. It’s easy for new users to get started and seasoned users to find something fresh. The platform has a diverse user base, and there are plenty of users who have been on the platform for over a decade.
“We have people who have been on forever and people who have just discovered the platform,” Jonathan said. “It’s common for people who have never tried YouNow to try it out and go from spending their time on a whole bunch of other social media to spending pretty much all of their time on YouNow. It’s a really different platform than anything people are used to.”
Jonathan praised other livestreaming platforms and said he was confident that YouNow’s offerings make it stand out from the rest.
“You know, on Twitch, which is an awesome platform, and I wish we had some of their tech, people are there to watch people play video games,” he said. “And that’s really all you do. There’s no connection, and it can feel impersonal.”
On YouNow, users aren’t restricted to only viewership. The platform encourages everyone to livestream and express themselves in whatever way feels right. YouNow is full of people authentically livestreaming themselves and their stories, which makes it easier for users to create meaningful friendships.
“Many platforms are super focused on paying attention to the broadcaster and the broadcaster alone,” Jonathan said. “And that’s not how you make friends. If you’re in college and you’re sitting around in a dorm room or at a bar, you’re moving around and talking to a lot of people. YouNow is emulating that same kind of idea.”
New Tech Expands Social Circles
Because YouNow is so focused on sustaining great relationships within the platform, it takes safety seriously. “Unfortunately, no matter where you go on the Internet, there will be harassment and bullying,” Jonathan said. “We have a ton of AI and manual tools that moderate streams and try to catch things before they can even be seen. Our human moderators are there to review flags and resolve any potential issues.”
When it comes to making friendships on YouNow, Jonathan said in-person etiquette applies. “It’s the same tips your brother gave you in grade school,” Jonathan said. “You know, be friendly, don’t be intrusive, and take time to integrate into communities and meet people. Just like in real life, it takes time to fold in.”
YouNow isn’t a dating site, but love comes in unexpected places on the internet, too. Plenty of people have met for romance through livestreaming on the platform. Jonathan said that romance can be found in plenty on the platform. “We have an awful lot of weddings livestreamed on YouNow. People who have been on the platform for a while livestream their actual wedding or share some version of it later.”
It’s important for users to follow community guidelines to keep YouNow enjoyable for everybody, and it’s always best practice to maintain reasonable expectations when creating virtual relationships, romantic or otherwise. Users looking for a different approach to livestreaming will find YouNow to be chock-full of the streaming features they love, with the added bonus of better social networking abilities.
As internet users, we’re witnessing a historic boom in the popularity of livestreaming. Instagram and TikTok’s livestreaming features exploded in 2023, with some creators raking in several million viewers on a single stream. The new media type has also introduced a new category of digital entertainers, including plenty of streamers who broadcast 24/7.
YouNow doesn’t disclose features in advance of launching them, but Jonathan said there are many things in the platform’s future that he’s looking forward to. “We do have some really cool things coming up that are going to promote making more friendships on the platform,” he said. “We’re trying to encourage people to not only make relationships on the platform, but show them off there too.”