In 2011, music videos were as varied as the artists who made them: we saw a string of videos featuring parties you wish you’d been at. On the indie circuit, found footage and ghostly, atmospheric imagery dominated the landscape. We also saw musicians get behind the camera and make some extraordinary self-directed music videos. This week we invited a musician who's ending up on a lot of year-end lists to share with us their year-end lists — and one from a record store for good measure.

2011: Merrill Garbus’ Picks
Merrill Garbus’ tUnE-yArDs may have been embraced by the indie community, but tUnE-yArDs isn’t your average twee indie pop. If anything, Garbus is the antidote to twee: she’s got a big, blowsy voice and she explores its range with refreshing abandon, edging into abrasive territory in a way that is curiously not abrasive. She’s also profoundly influenced by African music, and you can hear itthatin the layered chirps and coos of some songs, which draw directly from the Central African pygmy vocal tradition. Yes, heady stuff -- but Garbus also loves her dance music, and that’s why her album w h o k i l l has connected on such a visceral level with so many fans this year. (It sounds like very little else in any genre.) We were intrigued to know what music inspired her this year; her choices may surprise you.

2011: Amoeba Music’s Picks
Last but not least, California’s largest independent music store employs a small army of music nerds. In one fell swoop of collective bargaining, they agreed on their 22 (22!) favorite music videos of 2011. Nobody has their fingers in as much music as these folks; consider this a quick primer on some great music that you might have missed.

See you in 2012!

Sarah Bardeen, Music Community Manager, recently watched “Favorite Albums of 2011.”

Bits and bobs that’ve gone live since our last Release Notes...

YouTube is now available in...:
Arabic, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Slovenian, Ukrainian and Vietnamese!

Four new countries get YouTube Partner Program: The Partner Program continued its expansion this quarter, with launches in Argentina, Sweden, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. That makes 21 countries in which people can make money from their videos. For more information about partnerships, click here.

Crossfades, wipes and slides: The video editor lets you combine and trim your videos right on, without installing any software. Now you can add transitions, like crossfades and wipes, between video clips. Just select the transitions tab in the media picker, drag the transition and drop it between any two videos in the storyboard.

MySpace Autoshare: Automatically share your YouTube activities on your MySpace account (you can already do this on your Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, Reader and Orkut accounts). To hook this up, go to Account > ActivitySharing and click “Connect accounts” next to the MySpace logo.

More filtering for charts: YouTube Charts can now be filtered by categories such as Comedy, Gaming and Pets & Animals, in addition to time and popularity "slices." We also show more results (20) per page.

Improved screen reader accessibility for YouTube player: One of our engineering interns spent part of his summer improving video accessibility for visually impaired people. If you use a screen reader that supports Flash, we hope you'll find it easier to enjoy videos on YouTube now. We've also added some more captioning features to the YouTube Data API. You can list tracks, request auto-timing, and download the speech recognition captions for videos that you own.

Shows in France: If you’re a YouTube viewer in France, now you can watch full-length TV shows, like BFMTV: Bourdin Direct and Britain’s Got Talent. Check out the page here.

HD and CC badges on search results page:
When you search for a video on YouTube, the search results now show HD and CC (Closed Caption) badges, in addition to the NEW, CHANNEL and PLAYLIST badges that already exist. If you click on the badge, it will filter out results that don’t fall under that category.

“Add-to playlist” widget: The [+] button on video thumbnails in search results now includes a menu that allows you to add the video to any one of your playlists or start a new playlist. Additionally, the "save to" button below the video is being renamed "add to" and will have the same functionality.

Visited video styling on search results and video pages: Browsers help people remember links they have previously clicked on by giving them a different color, the standard generally being that links are in blue and visited links are in purple. Many sites, including YouTube, opt to make all links blue regardless of visited state to give a more consistent look to the site and better reflect its dynamic nature. However, having a visited state is specifically useful when exhaustively exploring search results or related videos, and so we are launching a new style for thumbnails and links to videos in related and search results: the thumbnail for visited videos is slightly grayed, and the link color has changed. This should help you explore the site deeper without going in circles.

The YouTube Team

As you may know, we're in the midst of one of the largest redesigns in YouTube's history: we're simplifying the look and functionality of the video page. That's the page you see whenever a video plays, and this redesign is about going "back to basics," focusing attention on the reason why you came to YouTube in the first place -- the video -- and all the ways you engage with content and creators.

We first unveiled the new video page two months ago and checked in four weeks later to tell you about the latest set of changes. Truth is, we've been thinking about this for a long time: what you see is the result of eight months' worth of user research, feedback and data analysis. Now, after a few more additions based on your latest feedback, we are rolling it out to 100% of YouTube users.

Here's what's new about the page:

Overall look and functionality
- It's cleaner, simpler and easier to use.
- Information about a video is now grouped together in one place and there's a consistent way to get more detail when you need it. This way, unless something's truly useful to you, it doesn't clutter up your page.
- We've cleaned up the actions bar; you'll see a streamlined presentation for sharing, flagging, and embedding controls.

- The right-hand side of the page is devoted to the next video to watch. We're smarter about suggesting the next videos to watch based on how you found the video you're watching in the first place.
- The channel name and subscribe button are now both on top of the video. We found that you prefer having a quick peek at more videos uploaders have created before deciding whether to subscribe to their channels.

- There's a new playlist interface, with the next video in the list appearing consistently in the top right. You can easily expand that list or skip ahead using a new next button in the player controls.
- Saving to playlists is easier, and we've made Favorites the default option.

- We've replaced the five-star ratings system with a simpler "likes / dislikes" model and introduced a new "Videos I Liked" list.

- Comments have a new highlights view which summarizes the best discussions and celebrates when creators communicate with their audiences.

We know this is a big change, but we hope you'll find the new page to be an improvement to your YouTube experience and to be a reflection of what you've told us thus far through your usage of the site and your comments to us. We'll be gathering in a conference room at our San Bruno, CA, headquarters at 6 p.m. PT today and tomorrow, and in London at 9 a.m. GMT tomorrow, to respond in near-real-time to your comments in the forums, on this blog and on Twitter. Of course, we'll be listening at other times, too, but we wanted to make sure we were available when you might have the most questions about these changes.

Igor Kofman, Software Engineer, recently watched "Pantyraid - Beba," and Shiva Rajaraman, Product Manager, recently watched "Chat Roulette Funny Piano Improv #2."

If you subscribe to the YouTube channel, you may have noticed a slew of new videos uploaded recently. They're part of an initiative called "YouTube 101," a series that explains basic features to new users. With hundreds of thousands of people creating new YouTube channels every day, there are a lot of folks out there who may not know that they can share a video privately, customize their channel or even how to upload a video -- in full HD, no less.

Each video has a unique flavor and you may even recognize some familiar faces helping us out (Happy Tree Friends, anyone?):

These tutorials will be embedded in our Help Center, the Creator's Corner, and other places where you're most likely to need quick, entertaining tutorials on how to use YouTube.

Let us know what you think in the comments below, particularly if there's a feature you find mysterious and think deserves the 101 treatment.

Mia Quagliarello, Community Manager, recently watched "A Pluto Song."

Here are a couple of things we launched recently:

Find your Facebook friends and Yahoo contacts on YouTube: In addition to finding your Gmail contacts on YouTube, now you can find and connect with the people you know on Facebook and Yahoo (that is, those who also have YouTube accounts and have connected their YouTube and Facebook accounts through AutoShare). Sign in and visit the homepage to be prompted with an invite (see screenshot below) to sync up your YouTube account to these platforms, and from there it should be easy to subscribe to the YouTube channels of people you know through these networks. Please note that this functionality is only available if your friends and contacts have allowed themselves to be found by their email address.

Total video views: Go to anyone's channel and now you can see how many views all of their uploads have received. This number can be added (or removed) from your own Profile by clicking "edit" on your channel's info module.

Cosmetic change to playlist display in search: When you search for playlists, we've changed the presentation of the results slightly, so that they are more strongly visually identified on the page. See how the thumbnails "cascade" here, indicating that this is actually a series of videos? In experiments, this layout didn't affect usage of playlists; we just like how it looks!

Recent Activity grouping/expansions: Turning on your activity feed means that anyone who's subscribed to you gets a notice in their feed when you favorite, comment on, rate videos and more (you can set up those preferences here). We've recently done some experimental upgrades focusing on grouping similar updates together. For example, now you can see when someone's favorited more than one video and what those videos are. Also, we'll now show things like "person A and five others favorited a video," which could be a strong signal to you that the video is getting circulated a lot among your friends and might be worth checking out.

New moderation options in Groups: Groups are a way for people with common interests to get together to talk about and post videos. Think Keyboard Cat fans or Nine Inch Nails enthusiasts -- whatever your interest, there's probably a group out there devoted to it. In an effort to improve group administration, we recently added a channel-style edit box at the top of Groups. Any group you are an owner of will have a full set of admin actions at the top of the page. From this interface, group owners can edit core settings of their group, like name and description, as well as set video and topic posting policies (see below). Both owners and moderators can use this interface to manage new topics and videos, streamlining the process of approving or rejecting group content.

We've also fixed a number of bugs, like removing owner approval requirements when replying to existing posts and preventing "ballot stuffing" for contest-oriented groups. Also, to encourage your friends to join and participate in groups that are important to you, your posts to public groups will soon find their way into your friends' homepage feeds, and the activity of other group members will also find their way into your homepage feed (all of the normal privacy options will apply, and we'll be adding new ones to allow more fine-grained control). We hope you find these new groups features useful and intuitive, and certainly let us know in the comments below what you think. Otherwise, why not create a group today?

The YouTube Team