YouTube videos get widescreen treatment

While YouTube's move to accommodate videos uploaded in the 16:9 aspect ratio will put a smile on many users' faces, observers will likely interpret the move as a baby step to compete with the likes of Vimeo and Hulu in the entertainment arena.

YouTube is expanding the width of its viewing screen, often adding black vertical bars to videos uploaded in the 4:3 aspect ratio.

YouTube announced Monday that it has expanded the viewable width of all videos that appear on the site, creating an image that resembles a movie theater screen or high-definition television.

The video-sharing site announced the move in a blog posting Monday evening:

We're expanding the width of the page to 960 pixels to better reflect the quality of the videos you create and the screens that you use to watch them. This new, wider player is in a widescreen aspect ratio which we hope will provide you with a cleaner, more powerful viewing experience.

The expanded viewing width will please YouTube users who are filming and uploading more videos to the site in the 16:9 aspect ratio. However, users worried that their 4:3 videos will be stretched to look like the TBS version of HD should fear not. Those videos will be centered with vertical black bars flanking the image (like the famous video depicted at right that captured a New York City Police officer tackling a bicyclist in Times Square).

While other sites such as Vimeo and have been using the widescreen format for some time, this move by YouTube seems to coincide with the recent announcement that MGM would become the first major movie studio to post full-length feature films on YouTube.

YouTube parent Google may be trying to duplicated the success of competitor Hulu, which has become the top outlet for watching full-length films and TV shows on the Web, and is reportedly generating as many ad dollars in only its first year in business as the three-year-old YouTube.

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