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Can YouTube’s ToonTube compete with Twitter and Facebook?

Just last week, it was announced in The Guardian that Google had bought children’s apps developer Launchpad Toys that may be part of its plan to launch a new version of YouTube aimed at kids.

The question is, why?

With Twitter announcing slower user growth, leading to an element of disquiet among investors, the company appears to be hoping that a slew of new innovations will assuage those concerned that its years of exponential user growth appear to be at an end.

While its revenue figures were ahead of those predicted by analysts (and by the company itself), what spooked them the most was the disappointing increase in monthly active users – these increased by just 1.4 per cent on the previous quarter to 288 million users.

On top of the launch of video streaming and instant messaging that are already slated for 2015, reports have emerged that suggest that Twitter has signed a deal with Google that will see tweets visible in Google search as soon as they are posted.

It’s part of a strategy by Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo to get tweets in front of as wide as possible – including non-users. This, he hopes, will accelerate user growth from where it has slowed to a crawl.

While no revenue is reported to have changed hands between the companies, it is interesting that it comes as Google has made its own defensive moves against Twitter launching a longer-form video content streaming service for which users can create, edit and upload their own videos.

The company has bought the children’s app developer Launchpad Toys leading to suggestions that it is launching a new version of YouTube aimed at kids. This, some say, is a further defensive move to protect its pre-eminence in long-form video content given that YouTube is under threat from Twitter (and Facebook) now that both have launched their own native players.

Despite still enjoying eye-watering users numbers, YouTube is no longer the default platform for video content – Facebook and Twitter have firmly parked their tanks on its lawn.

Its ambitions to take on the mainstream TV broadcasters have also been largely thwarted (despite committing to buying original content) to date. So what to make of this move?

HFSS advertising restrictions around children’s programmes have made the provision of them by commercial broadcasters more difficult. It’s revealing that of the top five most popular YouTube channels in 2014, two of them – DC Toys Collector and Stampy – are aimed at children.

With this acquisition it seems that YouTube is hoping to continue chasing this trend. Moreover its ambitions to use Launchpad Toys, one of whose apps allows children “to write, star and direct in your own TV show”, could be interpreted as a way of hooking in viewers while they are young – something that Twitter with its older (and now stagnating) profile might not be able to do.