YouTube is launching gift subscriptions in beta, and they’ll be available on select channels starting Wednesday. Subscriptions are YouTube’s take on Twitch’s subscriptions, which viewers can use to show financial support to creators and access certain benefits, such as custom emoji. Twitch users have been able to buy gift subscriptions for a while, but if you wanted to buy gift subscriptions for other fans of a YouTube channel, you couldn’t.
The membership gifts beta will be available to a “small group of creators” to begin with and will expand to more “in the coming months,” YouTube says on a page about the feature. Channels interested in trying out the feature can fill out this Google form, although you must already be eligible to enable subscriptions in the first place, which has its own requirements. And gifts are only available to viewers who use a browser window on their desktop to get started — buying gift memberships on mobile is something YouTube plans to have for the feature’s full launch.
Viewers also need to sign up to receive gifted memberships to a channel (which could be a way to avoid harassment like the changes YouTube has made to its version of raids). Gifted memberships appear in the chat, and you have to click a link and then a switch to allow gifts. You can get an idea of what the experience is like in this screenshot, taken from a GIF from YouTube:
“Memberships Gifting allows your channel members to purchase a certain number of channel memberships [5, 10, 20] in a single purchase, YouTube is gifting that to other viewers in your live stream,” says YouTube. “Viewers who receive a gift subscription get 1 month of access to your channel membership benefits, such as loyalty badges, custom emoji and more. Viewers who receive a gift membership pay no fees, and as a creator, you receive your usual share of revenue from each transaction.”
Gifted memberships are just the latest YouTube versions of key Twitch features introduced to better compete with Amazon’s popular streaming service. But YouTube isn’t just competing on features — it’s also enticed some big Twitch names, including DrLupo, TimTheTatman, Ludwig, and, in a deal announced last week, Sykkuno, to stream exclusively on its platform.