175,000 People Sign Petition Against New Youtube Comments

Youtubers have sent a clear message against the merging of Youtube and Google Plus (Google’s fledgling social network).

175,000 people have signed a petition launched a little over a week ago on Change.org which simply reads “Change the Youtube comment section back to its original form”. Because statistically less than 1% of supporters of an issue usually take any action, this sends a strong message tens of millions of people have noticed the change, and don’t approve.

I signed at around noon a week ago, when the count was under 20,000, and I couldn’t agree more with how annoying this change is. And successful Youtubers are starting to come around too. Just a month ago, when I asked such Youtubers as Marques Brownlee and Chris Pirillo whether they thought Youtube had been improved, they argued that it had, but a video released last week saw Chris Pirillo completely reverse his position, joining a group of notable Youtubers in condemning the changes.

Users: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Users have taken to the comments of the petition itself to air their grievances, making clear that this goes beyond the usual aversion to change.

One commenter, Aaron Vollhoffer of Trenton Canada, commented that “Stripping us of our anonymous profiles, forcing outside media and advertisements down our throats, censoring our comments and selectively giving commenters the ability to disable replies and ratings on their comments …are just some of the many negative changes that are being made to Youtube.”

The message is pretty clear: Stop making Youtube worse.

My Take:

Google has been acting against the interests of its users, and it upsets me. I’ve written open letters, here(2011), here(2012), and here (also in 2012) complaining about changes to Youtube, but this latest change has driven me, and many other users over the edge.

The new layout is disjointed.

Youtube’s team has been trying to make everyone happy. They’ve crammed in ads for their finance people, a sidebar for content-creators, and Google Plus integration for Google’s social efforts, but in the process, they’ve cluttered Youtube.

Many features are hard to find, and some, like the inbox and the like button, are being phased out altogether, in favor of an inferior layout.

Honestly, I’d prefer Youtube of 2008.

Sure, the video quality would go way down, as would channel-tracking, and I wouldn’t have the ability to livestream on my channel, but I’d still take the Youtube of 2008 over 2013 Youtube.

2008 Youtube put users first: Comments were an uncluttered field for text only. Videos were rated by 1-5 stars, rather than the black-and-white thumbs up, thumbs down buttons. Channel layouts were simple but elegant. Perhaps most amazingly, the homepage was a place for discovering amazing videos I wouldn’t normally see, rather than videos from channels that I already check.

2013 Youtube is cluttered and redundant. From the homepage, I’m flooded with videos from the dozens of channels I’ve subscribed to over the years, in no particular order. With each video comes a minute of ads, and with each social action comes a prompt, asking me to connect my Google Plus to my Youtube account. The comments which were once a mix of insight, and trolling (which was highly entertaining) have become a mix of messy links, spam, and bolded text from status updates. Comments aren’t even current, because they’re no longer in a chronological order. From a user experience perspective, it’s a nightmare!

One More Hopeless Plea…(And something you can do)

Despite how little good it will do, I’ll call for it again: Dear Youtube staff. Value simplicity over new functionality. Value usability over profitability. Value functionality over product symmetry.  If you follow those three simple rules, I’ll be thrilled, Youtube users will be thrilled, and you’ll be pretty happy too. Leave a comment with your thoughts on Youtube’s layouts!

Michael Sitver

Michael Sitver is a technology insider who has been blogging about technology since 2011. Along the way, he's interviewed founders of innovative startups, and executives from fortune 500 companies, and he's tried dozens or hundreds of gadgets. Michael has also contributed to works featured in Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the associated press. Michael also occasionally consults, and writes for Seeking Alpha and Yahoo News.

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