The trouble with YouTube is that it's almost entirely search-lead. You look up things that you know you want to see, things you've seen before, or things like things you've already seen. It tries to be helpful but its suggestions are mostly irritating ads or more things like the thing you've just seen.
Wonder PL for iOS (there's an Android app coming soon) attempts to improve your viewing experience by presenting channels, themes, collections and users for you to follow. The idea is that you give it a few pointers, then sit back and let the info-tainment begin.
Enough stuff, for now
It works, too. At the moment Wonder PL feels rather light on topics and collections, but for now there's enough content to keep most people entertained on and off for a week or two. If it gains momentum then we should see a lot more content and users joining the party.
While there is a search box, this isn't really the way to use the app. In fact, more often than not the search tool brings up absolutely no results. Perhaps that's a bug in the app or maybe it's because it doesn't have enough content to get hits on specific search terms. A more general seach for "comedy" or "sport" will return some results but even then they're unlikely to be very relevant.
It's a new app so we'll cut it some slack on the useless search tool (for now), mostly because Wonder PL is all about letting others serve up the video for you. If you really know what you want, head over to YouTube and dig it out by hand.
A whiff of luxury
There are three main ways to discover video content in the app. You can select your current mood (eg. "I want to get healthy / laugh / look back / entertain my kids"), choose from around 35 subjects or browse "My Wonders", which are collections you're currently following.
Here's how it might work... You choose "Interviews" and then pick Conan O'Brien from the 17 collections that appear. Within that set you'll find 141 clips from the US chat show (around 3 minutes long in this case). Pick one, watch it, and then the app will automatically move on to the next. This all happens without those "Skip this ad in 5 seconds" interruptions, which feels like a real luxury. If you just want to watch a few right now, you can follow that collection and come back to it later.
More after the break...
At the moment some sections are very understocked but we're hoping the whole thing will fill out soon. For example, the Music section has just seven collections. For music, YouTube is definitely the better option. On the other hand, there are some gems elsewhere. For example, there's London's Screen Archive, which contains some priceless historical newsreels, such as one from 1932 which shows my local PC World on the A4 in West London in its former incarnation as the art deco Firestone tyre factory. I wasn't expecting to see that today.
A safe place for children
So it's quite hit-and-miss at the moment but when it hits, it's great. The selection of children's entertainment isn't huge but it does include some favourites. For parents and children it's a much more secure environment than YouTube, in which your little angel is always just two clicks away from The World's Most Fatal Car Crashes Ever. With Wonder PL you can stack up a season of Pingu and discharge yourself from parental duties for a few minutes with peace of mind.
Wonder PL review summary
Wonder PL is free, so if you don't like it, you've lost nothing. It might be that it doesn't quite get the traction it needs to grow to its full potential, but even if that is the case it's still a very neat app as it stands.
Review by Tony Horgan.
App of the week: Wonder PL
A refreshingly calm and relaxing way to get your YouTube fix