Why Google’s Overhaul of YouTube Comments is Getting a Gigantic Thumbs Down

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By Rachel Smith
on 18/11/13

Seen by many as the internet’s worst place for discussion, the section under many a YouTube video has been home to some truly vile, trolltastic user comments. I’m sure you’ve seen some of these for yourselves, so I won’t go into any further detail. For some time, though, the video sharing site has been working on a solution to the issue and announced their proposed changes on their official blog in September.

Just last week, the comments revamp was finally rolled out. So let’s quickly recap on the main themes behind the changes:

Signing in with your Google+ account means that comments left on a YouTube video by people in your circles gain more prominence. This means you’ll see more from people you know and value, rather than having to trawl through comments from endless random users.

Previously, YouTube channel owners had a difficult time combating bad comments, forcing many to disable comments for their videos altogether. Channel owners now have new moderation powers, including the ability to review comments before they’re posted and automatically block certain words.

Previously, any comments you posted were viewable by anyone on YouTube. Now your comments can be viewed only by those in your circles or by certain individuals, if you so choose.

Users can now add links to their comments, the idea being to let them share other relevant videos with friends. An increased character limit should also allow for better, longer conversations.

These all sound like positive, long overdue changes to be welcomed by the online community, right? Well, the general reaction so far suggests otherwise, with people taking exception to the following:

Link abuse
The ability to add links to comments has unsurprisingly brought the link spamming brigade out in full force. Bad news for those wanting to read people’s thoughts on a video, but great news for those looking for a cracking deal on Viagra. A number of high profile YouTubers, including the most popular creator PewDiePie who boasts over 15 million subscribers, have decided to disable comments because of the overwhelming amount of virus links being posted:


Comment spam
Youtube wanted "comments you care about to rise to the top". However, this hasn’t quite worked out as intended.

So instead of seeing constructive comment threads like this:


Most people are seeing the likes of this:


Google+ integration
Is the required integration with a Google+ account a cynical attempt to boost the social platform’s usage? Many seem to feel that way, none more so than YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim:


These sentiments are echoed by the 170,000+ who have signed a fast growing online petition demanding that the comments be reverted back to the old system, whilst the thumbs up/thumbs down ratio on YouTube’s video reflects this feeling:



So what now?
YouTube is aware of the chaos in its comments system (how could it not be?) and has promised a fix. Arguably the biggest concern for its parent company is where this whole episode leaves Google+. For many of YouTube’s substantial user base, being forced to join the social network in order to post comments has left a bad taste in the mouth. It’s no secret that Google+ has been lagging behind the likes of Facebook and Twitter in terms of popularity, but the network now faces an even more uphill task getting people to change their minds, sign up and actually use the network.