A YouTube co-founder is not a fan of the platform’s recent decision to hide dislike counts from videos, arguing that it destroys a crucial way to determine if a clip is worth viewing.
“When every YouTuber agrees that removing dislikes is a stupid idea, it probably is. Try again, YouTube,” says Jawed Karim.
Karim expressed his opposition by changing the video description to his 2005 video “Me at the zoo,” the first clip ever published on YouTube. The updated description claims that “not a single YouTube Creator…thinks removing dislikes is a good idea—for YouTube or for Creators.
“The ability to easily and quickly identify bad content is an essential feature of a user-generated content platform. Why? Because not all user-generated content is good. It can’t be. In fact, most of it is not good,” he adds.
“And that’s OK. The idea was never that all content is good,” he says. “The idea WAS, however, that among the flood of content, there are great creations waiting to be exposed. And for that to happen, the stuff that’s not great has to fall by the side as quickly as possible.”
This so-called “wisdom of the crowds” process worked through the like and dislike count on each YouTube video. But with the platform now preparing to phase out the dislike count from public view, Karim predicts interest in YouTube will fall.
“The process breaks when the platform interferes with it. Then, the platform invariably declines,” he says. “Does YouTube want to become a place where everything is mediocre? Because nothing can be great if nothing is bad.”
Google, which bought YouTube in 2006 before dislikes were introduced, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. But last week, the company said hiding the dislike count would help prevent coordinated campaigns of harassment against video creators. According to YouTube, these “dislike attacks” can often target creators with smaller followings and discourage users from watching their videos.
“It’s usually just because they don’t like the creator or what they stand for,” said YouTube’s creator liaison Matt Koval in a video released last week, which ironically now has 171,000 dislikes compared to 14,000 likes.
The video of Matt Koval, which now has a high dislike count.
The same video has also attracted over 100,000 comments, many of which are against YouTube’s decision to nix the dislike count. “This is not about protecting creators, it’s about protecting brand interests. Stop censorship,” wrote one user in response to Koval’s video.
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“The fact that this video has 12x the amount of dislikes surely shows that people DONT WANT THIS,” wrote another. Meanwhile, other users worry the removal of the dislike count from public view will help more scams proliferate on the platform.
However, YouTube points out that the dislike button itself isn’t going away; the platform is merely making it so the dislike count is only viewable to the video’s creator. YouTube is also convinced dropping the dislike count won’t prevent users from knowing which worthwhile videos to watch.
“When the teams looked at the data across millions of viewers and videos in the experiment, they didn’t see a noticeable difference in viewership,” Koval said in the video. “In other words, it didn’t really matter if a video had a lot of dislikes or not, they still watched.”
The last time Karim weighed in on changes to YouTube was in 2013, when it connected comments on the platform to its now-defunct Google+ social network. “Why the f**k do I need a Google+ account to comment on a video?” Karim posted on his zoo video at the time.
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