question of the day: What do you think of the new YouTube?


Have you noticed the changes in YouTube lately? Are you happy about them? Wait till you hear why users are having to cope with a new interface. From The New York Times:

[B]eyond aesthetics lies a deeper change, one that the naysayers have perceived, explicitly or intuitively: the redesign is a muted but firm declaration that the party is over. It’s YouTube’s strongest step away from what will be seen as its short-lived early heyday as a largely unregulated repository of funny cats, anonymous guitar masters, angry Asian bus riders and countless other weird and wonderful things.

In place of that free-for-all will be a new YouTube, more commercial, more predictable and, its owners hope, more televisionlike. The underlying reason is money, of course, but the immediate issue is control. By cutting away the user-driven underbrush and shepherding viewers, especially those with YouTube accounts, toward TV-like content channels — an increasing number of them produced by corporate media partners — YouTube and its owner, Google, will gain more control by giving amateur videographers less exposure and funneling viewers toward fewer choices.

There’s nothing necessarily good or bad about these changes. Will the world be a worse place if it’s more difficult for a video of a baby biting his brother’s finger to draw 400 million views? Might the new content agreements YouTube has been signing with the Disneys and Madonnas of the world improve the overall quality of mainstream Web video, producing work that’s both more professional and more innovative? It’s too early to tell.

I would argue that there certainly is something necessarily bad about these changes. The free-for-all that YouTube has been has been pure democracy in action. For every cute cat video or angry baby clip, there have been blows to the very notion of control and power: uploads of police brutality and public protests that mainstream media won’t cover, for instance. The Times is being disingenuous if it really expects corporate players — who are interested only in making money — to suddenly get more “innovative.”


What isn’t being said is that the new design and the emphasis on channels isn’t only, or even primarily, about what consumers want, or what would make their time on the site more pleasant or worthwhile. Note that with all the thought and money that went into the redesign, the experience of actually watching the video player appears to be virtually the same as it was before.

The more important audience lies in the advertising, media buying and television businesses, among the executives who have been watching homemade videos accrue millions of views and crying in anguish, “Nobody’s making any money off of this!” They probably don’t even mind that they’re not making money; they just wish that someone were making money.

That last is important, though not for the reason the Times thinks. There’s a reason why those execs are anguished that no one has been making money: if the world can move, even in tiny baby steps, toward a new paradigm that doesn’t value money quite so much, they are fucked.

What do you think of the new YouTube?

Bronxbee, who suggested this QOTD, calls it “blander.” I call it an infuriating move away from what made YouTube so special in the first place. And on a smaller technical note, I hate that YouTube no longer lets a video preload to your computer, so you can watch it in one smooth go. Now, unless you’ve got perfect, glitch-free high-speed Internet access (which I do not at the moment), watching YouTube videos means annoying jerkiness and unwanted pauses.

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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