There are a few staples of YouTube: Cat videos, lip syncing, and trolls. The video platform’s comment section has long been regarded as one of the worst places on the Web; a teeming hive of scum and villainy. And after much, much ado, YouTube is going to do something about it.
YouTube comments will now be powered by Google+ so that YouTube is able to utilize the thing that helps Facebook keep people honest – identity. (One of our writers this week found that her non-Google+ affiliated YouTube channel had been looped in – now it’s completely clear why.) Google will not stop trying to make us use Google+, and forcing you to use it in order to post or comment on YouTube videos is just another nail in the coffin. And since people will have to deal with the vitriol they’ve posted being tied back to their email address, they are less likely to post said vitriol and say such horrible things about your mom – at least, that’s the idea.
YouTube said comments we care about will move to the top – some of these are quantifiable: the video’s creator, people in your Google+ Circles. Some of them are not: “popular personalities,” and “engaged discussions about the video” both sound like fairly subjective content to get bumped up. Luckily, you can switch between “newest to first” or “top comments.”
The good? YouTube clearly had to address the issue of what was being said, threatened, and intimated in the comments. Web publishers are coming down harder and harder on commenters, holding them accountable to their words; more and more are turning to Facebook because it uses “real identities,” and since YouTube clearly couldn’t do that, it went with Google+. The bad? Google+ users are now officially looped in YouTube whether they wanted to be or not (and vice versa), and it’s also another sign that Google is turning YouTube into a more professional atmosphere.
Really, what we’re in danger of losing, is this.
But we also might lose this, so, even trade?
Whether YouTube is able to effectively clean up comments without alienating its very active user base remains to be seen – and appropriately, the comment responses to its announcement about comments reveals quite a few interesting viewpoints.