YouTube has adopted a new design, which the company reckons tidies up one of the most familiar website designs in history.

Gone is the cluttered look the world has taken for granted, replaced with a range of minor reforms that have met with a generally positive reception.

The whole ride hand side of the page is now taken up by related videos, which gives the user more examples of an uploader's content before they subscribe. The five-star rating system has been abandoned in favour of simpler ‘thumbs up' or ‘down' symbols, and the comments column is now tamed by the selection of those which ‘summarise' discussion threads.

"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," say the developers in the official blog.

The developers also had time for a charming April Fool's joke, announcing on its homepage a spoof video format, TEXTp, in which embedded flash videos are rendered in ASCII characters.

"You've heard of HD formats like 720p and 1080p. Well, today we're offering a new way to experience YouTube: text-only mode or TEXTp," read the official announcement, which included startling examples of the new genre specially tweaked for the occasion.

"By using text-only mode, you are saving YouTube $1 a second in bandwidth costs. Click here to go back to regular YouTube and happy April Fools Day!," comment the YouTube team.

Some of the new design is hard to tell from the spoof. For instance, the logo looks tweaked, but a closer inspection shows that this too is rendered in 'TEXTp' style and is not intended to be permanent.

Amusingly, some users appeared to enjoy the effect of overlaying ASCII on video and asked that the effect could be applied to all content.

Apart from the natural tinkering that any website undergoes from time to time, there does appear to be a deeper significance to the changes. As with Twitter, which also revamped its homepage some days ago, YouTube wants to drive more of its users to a wider selection of its content.

Currently, it features a tiny number of massively popular videos and a larger population of videos that almost nobody looks at. Longer term, its business model could depend on broadening people's tastes, extending the average of 15 minutes each user spends on the site.