YouTube is being torn apart by Google

on January 28th, 2014 by Matt | 4 Comments »

You know your company is doing something wrong when your users mistake bugs for new features. A fantastic recent example of this, especially for YouTube, is the pagination of the Subscriptions page. Recently, the button to ‘view more videos’ wasn’t showing up, leaving users with only 16 videos to view from the people they’re subscribed to.

Here’s the problem though. This isn’t a new issue, it’s simply becoming more obvious. Currently, YouTube is the most popular video sharing website in existence. Hell, it’s in the top 3 most popular websites overall, alongside Google and Facebook. The problem with this is that it makes Google think they can do whatever they want, and that users will stay. This is a big problem. If users are willing to stick through anything, and not complain, then the site in question has too much power.

Lets talk about some recent changes YouTube has been making that has been the opposite of improving the service.

Firstly, a little while back, Google decided to make the most useful page on YouTube hard to find. The Subscriptions page. Its been a while, but this change still doesn’t make any sense to me.

The biggest problem with this is that subscribing to channels is a core part of the YouTube experience. You watch a video, and if you like it you see what other videos the person posts, and then hit ‘Subscribe’ because you want to be notified about future videos. Even more importantly – the Subscribe button is the most obvious thing on the page.

The visibility of that button shows how badly Google want us to subscribe to the channel, even when you’re not logged in. But once you click it, what next? You don’t get email notifications for new videos (which at this point, would be the obvious way to go). Instead, you’re stuck with the most useless homepage in existence.

The ‘What to Watch’ page makes no sense. It gives me a list of recommended videos (I’m not subscribed to any of the people listed, and yet they think I want to watch them), then provides a (seemingly random) collection of videos from the people I’ve subscribed to. But here’s the thing – half the videos in that list I’ve already watched. The content creators aren’t even in alphabetical or chronological order. The grouping makes no sense. It’s as if Google want me to watch videos of people I haven’t subscribed to (I mean, look at that right sidebar!) more than the people I have subscribed to.

The page gets worse though – every 12 channels of those I have subscribed to, I get a “recommended channel for you” which looks like this –

Not only does it show 5 videos that were all posted 5+ months ago, it even shows that shiny red Subscribe button I keep mentioning. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Now, you may be asking “alright, but how DO I properly see videos from the people I’ve subscribed to?” Ah yes, the question everyone’s asking, and only few know the answer to. On the What to Watch page, on the left sidebar, is a little link labelled ‘My Subscriptions.’ Once you click that, you may also have to click ‘Uploads only.’ THAT is where you’ll see all the latest videos from the people you’ve subscribed to.

But the issues don’t stop there. Many times I’ve watched a video where the person says “YouTube is having issues with their subscription boxes again, so if you haven’t seen videos from me during the past week, go check my channel.” What?! YouTube has a relatively hidden Subscription page and it frequently doesn’t even work?! Rubbish!

This shows another issue with the hiding of this page. YouTubers, the content creators, depend on consistent view counts. They depend on those people who click that shiny red Subscribe button and frequently come back to see new content. They expect their content to be easy to find, and easy for the viewer to figure out which videos they haven’t watched yet. By hiding the My Subscriptions page, these content creators get less views, and it makes it harder for them to make enough money from their videos to make a living. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Keep in mind – that’s only one of the many issues with this website. Lets move on to something that has recently been happening.

I use YouTube every day, so when something breaks, I notice very easily. Recently, very frequently, when clicking on new videos to try and watch them, I’ve come across this screen.

That’s right – I’m getting audio, and the rest of the page, but the video isn’t visible. The whole point of YouTube is to watch videos – and yet they can’t even get that right. In Google Chrome! The easiest way to make this occur is by right clicking on a video link, and clicking ‘Open link in new tab.’ Nine times out of ten, I can make it happen. The problem is, this has now been an issue for over a week. To fix it, I’ve either had to refresh the page, or copy the link and PASTE it in a new tab. While writing this post, I noticed that the video becomes visible (without a page refresh) if you resize the window. It happens with both Flash and HTML5. How does this make any sense?

Next issue – the “WATCHED” labels. They’re incredible useful – when they work. Below is a screenshot of a playlist. I have watched every video in this playlist. If I go to my ‘Watch History’ page, I can see a large number of these videos listed. However, only the latest 3 are actually labelled as ‘Watched.’

Google, if you make a feature that people will depend quite heavily on, make sure you get it right before releasing it.

Sure, in this situation, I know exactly which videos I’ve watched. But say I have a busy week, and don’t get a chance to catch up on videos from my Subscriptions page. Say I come back and go “alright then.. have I missed anything interesting?” You can’t do that. Apparently that’s too logical for YouTube. You have to remember the name, number and uploader of every single video you watch, in case another episode of that series is released so you know exactly what you’ve watched. I just don’t understand.

Next, an issue that’s more of a problem for the uploader than the viewer, though the viewer can also be affected: automatic content ID matching.

For those who don’t know, YouTube has a system that automatically scans every video that gets uploaded and gets for copyrighted material. Music, certain video clips, music videos, movies, etc. Some people get around this by either changing the pitch of the audio, flipping the video horizontally, or other minor adjustments.

Here’s the problem though. This Content ID system is a “flag immediately, ask questions later” kind of thing, rather than “hmm, this video might violate something, lets get a human to double check.” And that’s where it all falls apart.

The thing is, legitimate content gets flagged on a regular basis, even if the uploader provided proof in the description (as they’re supposed to). It gets even worse though – the content simply isn’t flagged, but if it’s monetized (which, 9 times out of 10, it is) then any money gained from ads on the video throughout the whole time the video is flagged, goes to the company/party who flagged it (not the uploader) even if after a week its proven that the content ID match was wrong, and it’s proven the uploader owns 100% of the content in the video.

Oh, but wait, it gets worse – if 3 videos get flagged, you try to defend yourself, and you lose all three claims, then your entire channel either gets deleted, or you can no longer monetize videos. What?! What idiot thought that was a fantastic idea?! There are people like CaptainSparklez with millions of subscribers, (in his case) a trillion total video views, and over a thousand videos, who make a living solely off uploading original content to YouTube.

Didn’t think it could get worse, right? Well you’re wrong. Many content creators decided to sign up to networks like Machinima who promised to help them out of their videos got flagged. Even better, the bigger people in such networks were 100% protected from such content ID claims, which meant they could upload video without having to worry about a poorly implemented system flagging them – but Google decided this was no longer a good idea so all those YouTubers were re-scanned by content ID. And many of them had hundreds of videos flagged in an instant. That means they’re no longer making money off those videos, and if they fight for the rights to more than 2 of those videos, they risk having their entire channels taken down by a stupid, inaccurate, unbelievably broken and unfair system. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Now then, lets discuss the worst issue of all – Google+ “integration”. Google couldn’t have done this any worse, honestly.

Lets get something straight. YouTube and Google+ are two completely different services with different purposes, practices and most importantly users. YouTube has also existed for a long time, while Google+ is still relatively new. This makes YouTube mature, and Google+ basically a newborn child. These two should be going anywhere near each other.

However, Google decided that they might as well try. Google+ isn’t receiving the worldwide adoption they were hoping for, so why not force millions of YouTube users to make accounts on Google+?

The problem is, Google did not do a good job in the “integration” between the two. Google+ and YouTube accounts are still very much separate, and those who were forced to make a Google+ account are most likely not even visiting, as that is not where they get their content from.

When YouTube tells you that you have to make a Google+ account, and link it, the first thing most people did was dismiss it by pressing the hidden cancel button and try commenting again. When it showed up a second time, they decided not to comment because it’d be too much effort.

But for me, it was worse than that. I, like many content creators/uploaders, have multiple YouTube accounts, two to be exact, with their own Google accounts attached. Futhermore, I only have 1 Google+ account. And I only ever want ONE. This is where it gets incredibly messy.

On my primary account, it’s not too bad. I have one Google account that encompasses one Gmail account, Google+ & YouTube account. And that’s perfectly OK. I barely use my channel, and when I do, there’s no “brand” associated with it – it’s just me.

But my gaming channel – ooh, that’s where it all falls apart.

To be able to respond to comments on my own videos, I was given a choice – either use my real name as the “brand” associated with my channel (no way in hell), or, make a Google+ page to represent the YouTube account. Oh, did I mention that to make a Google+ page you have to have a regular account on Google+ first?

So by clicking “I want to continue using the name WizardCMGaming on YouTube” I, in effect, made 2 new accounts on Google+ – alongside my primary one on another Google account. Yet it makes even less sense.

YouTube decided to include a new page among all of this, labelled as a “channel switcher.” What this means, is you can now have multiple channels associated with a single Google account, with even more Google+ pages to administrate the comments. Confused yet?

This means I now have 2 Google accounts (with associated Gmail addresses), 2 channels, and 3 personas (two of which have my real name) on Google+. And I have absolutely no way to link any of these together.

The ideal situation here, especially on the channel switcher page, would be an Import button that allows me to MOVE the entire WizardCMGaming persona, that is, the YouTube channel + Google+ page, from one Google/Google+ account to my main one. This would allow me to delete the wizardcmgaming Google account, but still continue to have my YouTube channels under my main Google account. Less ideal, I’d be stuck with 2 personas – me, Matt Gajownik, and me, WizardCMGaming. But that’s not possible, and probably never will be.

This is not “integration” of any kind – it’s an utter mess. I’m stuck with a Google+ page I’m not allowed to delete, representing me with 0 posts, a useless cover image and 1 follower, a Google+ account to manage the Google+ page and YouTube channel, representing me without a picture, and 2 people with me in their circles, and then my most used Google[everything] account with 0 pages, a properly filled out profile, with 93 in my circles and another 34 people who have me in their circles. Utter rubbish rolled into a ball thrown into space, honestly.

The biggest issue with all of this is there’s nothing we can do to stop it – Google are well known for their lack of communication and support teams, and clearly a lack of a proper testing group that can tell them they’re utter rubbish and should be replaced. Go on, try contacting Google. Let me know if they ever respond to you.

That’s it with my rant  for now – I hope to post a lot more this year, I have at least 8 more ideas for blog posts I really want to write.