I dislike YouTube’s decision to hide dislikes

The posts here on Colecandoo usually relate to prepress issues via Adobe Acrobat; or tips and techniques for page layout applications such as Adobe InDesign. On this occasion, this post relates directly to YouTube, and more specifically, a decision taken in late 2021 to disable the ability to view the amount of dislikes on any YouTube video.

Background

In November 2021, YouTube announced a change to the like/dislike feature on their platform that has been on their platform since 2010. The change does not affect the ability to like or dislike a video, but the viewer’s ability to determine the amount of dislikes on the video. Their video explaining the decision is here.

My own experience

At the time of writing this post, the way I consume the majority of video content is via YouTube on a smart television. I no longer watch free-to-air television in my own home, and now only watch free-to-air television at friends or relatives’ houses; or while at the gym. I do consume other video content such as TikTok, Netflix, Amazon Prime etc, but the lion’s share of video content I consume is via YouTube.

I will watch YouTube not only for entertainment, but for training in the form of tutorials; education in the form of documentaries and science-based channels, and news by going to the free-to-air channel’s own YouTube page, in this case, usually Australia’s ABC.

I acknowledge that YouTube as a social media platform is far from perfect, and has had its share of issues over the years, whether it be the “Adpocalypse”; the brief Google Plus account stint; or recent issues content creators have had concerning demonetization of their content. However, I do appreciate the creators who are on the platform who create worthwhile and meaningful content.

My take on YouTube’s decision

After watching YouTube’s video explaining their decision, I feel that they understand the purpose of a visible like/dislike ratio, have misunderstood how handle abuse of the feature and are focussed on dealing with the issue of downvote brigading – a phenomenon where some – or all – content on a particular YouTube channel is downvoted by many viewers, usually at the direction of an instigator. Examples of this include:

  • YouTube Rewind 2018;
  • Baby Shark Dance;
  • Ghostbusters 2016 Trailer;

Brigading isn’t always in the form of downvotes, and one instance in particular had encouraged subscribers to a particular YouTube channel to unsubscribe from it due directly to their perceived efforts to trademark the word “React” – an action that cost the channel over 600,000 subscribers at the time.

To quote from YouTube’s explanatory video:

“seeing the number of dislikes on a video helps us know, as viewers, if it’s a good video or not, if it’s a helpful tutorial or not, or if what a creator is saying in their video is generally agreed with or not”.
“unfortunately, research teams at Youtube have found there’s this whole other use for disliking a video” “…and it’s usually just because they don’t like the creator or what they stand for.”

It is my opinion that YouTube’s solution to combat the abuse of the like/dislike ratio is on par with cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. In order to assist victims of brigading, they have done so at the expense of every viewer’s ability to determine the potential quality of content before it is viewed.
This is a sentiment also echoed by YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim, who – in the last line of the updated description of the first video he posted to the platform, wrote:

‘In business, there’s only one thing more important than “Make it better”. And that’s “Don’t f**k it up”‘.

Jawed Karim, Co-Founder of YouTube

I personally find the like/dislike ratio helpful for the following reasons:
As a viewer:

  • I can tell at a glance if the video accurately reflects its thumbnail and description, and wasn’t clickbait at best; or nefarious at worst;
  • I can determine whether the video was worth watching or not; and if I agree or disagree, leave my own feedback to help others;

As a creator:

  • Having a high like to dislike ratio tells viewers that my content has substance and is worth watching;
  • Lets me know if a video I’ve made is bad, that I need to work on – or remove – the video in order to edit and correct it.

As a YouTube content creator myself, I appreciate the feedback that I get in the comments, and have also gone to extra lengths to value-add my videos by:

  • making sure that my content is thoroughly researched and checked prior to publication;
  • providing closed captions so that the episodes can be watched without the volume, whether that is because the videos are being watched in an open-plan office without headphones; or that some viewers may find my accent difficult to understand;
  • adding chapter markers to my videos so that viewers who do not need the background to a video can just scrub ahead to the important parts.

All is not lost

As necessity is the mother of invention, it is – on desktop versions of YouTube at least – to return the ability to see the dislike amount by using browser extensions such as “Return Youtube Dislike” – enter this exact phrase into the search engine of your choice to find the extension for your browser.

About colmin8r
A prepress operator and graphic designer for a South Australian commercial printer, with close to 20 years of experience in the trade. He is also a regular contributor to this site and InDesign Magazine, and hosts his own prepress blog "Colecandoo".

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