Since Youtube was taken over by Google, server speed has increased immensely, they've moved to HD, they've removed time limits on videos, they've allowed live streaming of shows, they've given away hundreds of millions of dollars through the partnership program they introduced (including many shows that are simply vlogs)... Et cetera.
I have a rather more cynical view of that. Better latency, HD, longer videos and live streaming are basically all just effects of one good thing, better servers. That's probably the only good thing that Google has given to Youtube.
I don't count the partnership program as good. Basically it radically influences channel content for the worse. Either it introduces money, which ruins everything*, or it introduces legal protection from U.S. entities which makes for some pretty bland content**.
* I'm a viewer of some channels that thrive on the partnership program (Drive Network and TotalBiscuit for example) and they all do worse and worse the more money is involved. Instead of being fueled by passion they are fueled by ratings and money. Which is what utterly killed Hollywood and Television for me and got me into Youtube in the first place. Examples from the Drive Network: the three-minute car reviews, which are blatantly not at home on that channel, and the product placement (like Pirelli) / advertisement videos that pop up every once in a while. Examples from TB: where to even begin. Makes videos based solely on the highest ratings, to the point where it comes close to ruining his personal life. Adjusts video content and kills off series based on how much revenue they bring in and not based on what he enjoys playing/shooting, which blatantly shows in his commentary.
** Partnership channels are pretty strictly regulated in regards to what they can show in their videos. They are trying to dodge takedown requests like this one and copyright strikes which may stop their cash intake. So... anything remotely inflammatory or controversial that could be in any way interpreted as slander, copyright infringement, etc... just won't appear on a channel like this any more.
Also: the GP was right about the ridiculous "updates". They're almost all terrible. The layout changes, the default setting changes, the player changes... Just the facts that buffering still doesn't work, quality settings were broken for months, subscriptions break all the time, are all great examples of the incompetency of the devs or the misguided priorities over there. Youtube is constantly becoming more corporate, better at generating revenue, and worse for the users. And users hate it more all the time and only use it because hardly anyone could ever afford to make a better Youtube clone.
The greatest thing Youtube has introduced lately is HTML5 compatibility and I have complete confidence Youtube could've and would've implemented that without Google's "help".