YouTube will launch a new discovery tool called Topics tonight on its labs page TestTube, the company told reporters this morning. Topics will allow users to discover high-quality videos about topics of interest to them without requiring the user to enter detailed search queries.

"With Topics, YouTube will try to deliver results by honing in on comments from users on videos they have viewed, sites that have linked to the video and even what users have watched in the past," writes the BBC's Maggie Shiels this morning. A YouTube spokesperson confirmed for us by email that an official announcement will be made on the YouTube blog this evening.

YouTube to Automate Topics Based On

  • Your YouTube viewing history.
  • Comments you've left on other videos.
  • Types of sites linking to a video on YouTube.
Automated, intelligent, personalized discovery of video content is likely to be very important for Google's YouTube in the coming era of Web TV and media convergence. Combined with strong support for discovery of long-tail content, such recommendations could help YouTube differentiate itself from professionally curated popular content on sites like the fast-growing Hulu.

"There are all these great gems inside YouTube that are not getting broader exposure," Palash Nandy, a search and discovery engineer at YouTube, told Shiels of the BBC.

"Take the sport of parkour [running through urban obstacle courses], this is a very particular sport that if exposed could become much more popular. There are all these random sports out there like cheese rolling or extreme ironing that no-one sees."

Extreme ironing? I've heard of riding lawnmower races, but extreme ironing seemed a bit much to me - until I saw that YouTube actually suggests refining that search to limit it to extreme ironing underwater or extreme ironing skydiving. What a world we live in!

It's not hard to imagine YouTube Topics on extreme ironing on YouTube LeanBack, on Google TV. Heck, controlled by the Android phone TV controller app.

Bring it on, YouTube Topics.