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Nebula

App review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Nebula App Poster Image
YouTube video tester has scant content, no safety controls.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Created for entertainment purposes only. Not intended for educational use. 

Ease of Play

Apart from strange and often incorrect search results, interface is simple to use. 

Violence

No violence in the app itself, but user-generated content could contain violent imagery and/or references. 

Sex

No sex in the app itself, but user-generated content could contain suggestive imagery and/or references. 

Language

No profanity in the app itself, but user-generated content could contain inappropriate language and references. 

Consumerism

The app's main feature is not having ads, but users have to pay $5 a month for very limited content. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

No drugs, alcohol, or smoking in the app itself, but user-generated content could contain images and/or references to substance use. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nebula is a paid video streaming app designed to complement, rather than compete with, YouTube. The app has no filters or parental controls (no restricted viewing mode or ability to block videos and/or channels), and though the app's developer vets all video content, the app's creator-centric focus means kids could be exposed to suggestive or violent imagery, profanity, substance use, or other inappropriate content. The app contains no Like options, comments section, or ads. Users can sign up for a free seven-day trial, but thereafter are charged a $5/month subscription fee. Users can't register within the app and are directed to the app's website; creators wanting help with content have to contact the app's developers directly for tools and help, since the information isn't readily available. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

NEBULA is a paid video streaming app by YouTube stars CGP Grey and Philipp Dettmer (aka Kurzgesagt) designed to let YouTube video creators test-drive new content before posting it on established YouTube channels. Submitted content is screened by the developers with an eye toward promoting entertaining, informative videos outside the mainstream. Prospective contributors must contact the development company, Standard, directly. The app's content comes in a variety of categories, including Music, History, Gaming, and Film and TV. Users can browse by featured content or category and search by keyword; they can also follow individual creators and save their content to a My Shows list. The app is ad-free but charges users $5/month to use the service. 

Is it any good?

Though this app sets itself up as an appendage, rather than a rival, of YouTube, the comparisons are inevitable -- and the results aren't good. Its main selling point is lack of ads, but it lacks a lot of other things, too, including content. Without it, Nebula isn't worth using, let alone paying for.

The app's first shortcoming is apparent the minute you open it and find you can't register within the app (you're redirected to the app's website). Next, you'll notice the serious lack of content. If you're hoping to find your favorite YouTube star here, you'll likely be disappointed. At the time of review, it has only 75 content creators, so each category contains only two to four videos, some of which are doing double duty in multiple categories. Also, the category list is seriously limited. No Art category? That's a big one on YouTube. 

Searches are even more disappointing, mostly finding nothing, or finding things unrelated to your search terms. Granted, the app's currently limited content makes it easy for parents to vet videos for kids, but assuming content grows over time, the app's lack of parental/safety controls could prove problematic. Also problematic -- at least for people who are hearing-impaired -- is the lack of closed captions. Videos are limited to only one automatic resolution and two viewing sizes. But on a more positive note, the app's lack of Like options, comments, and number of views could help foster a nontoxic community that's less competitive and more open to creativity. Along with that, its no-algorithm approach could put content creators on a more even playing field with better chance of being seen (and paid). That said, the developers' claims of offering creators "production resources, design guidance, mentorship, sponsorship, and analytics" remain vague thanks to a total lack of online tools and information. As it stands, due to an overall lack of content, parental controls, and tools, Nebula is far from being useful to either viewers or creators, and is definitely not worth a $5 subscription fee. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the value of "online influencers." Which YouTubers are your favorites? Why? How do they make money? Do they advertise products? 

  • Think about how online algorithms create our sense of reality. How is online content filtered, featured, and suppressed?  

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • Price: Free to try
  • Pricing structure: Free to try ($5/mo. after seven-day trial)
  • Release date: June 10, 2019
  • Category: Entertainment
  • Size: 21.50 MB
  • Publisher: Standard
  • Version: 1.1
  • Minimum software requirements: Requires iOS 12.0 or later

For kids who love streaming video content

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