Google faces user backlash over the new YouTube comments system

When Google announced it was changing the comments system for YouTube, users should have been thrilled, after all that aspect of the site has been in need of an overhaul for a very long time. The update Google created adds "smarter" sorting, and "meaningful" conversations, allows comments to be moderated, and for the most part the change just makes things look tidier.

The problem with the new system is you need to have a Google+ account to post a comment, and YouTube users aren’t happy with that. An inevitable petition calling for Google to change the comment settings on YouTube back to their original form was duly launched and has received over 40,000 signatures in 24 hours.

The comments that accompany the petition sum up the frustration and anger that many YouTube users feel.

"James Gandolfini" says:

They have completely RUINED a great thing. Comments were the number one reason why I checked my YouTube account daily. Now that desire is gone.

While "Aaron Vollhoffer" believes Google has gone too far:

Stripping us of our anonymous profiles, forcing outside media and advertisements down our throats, censoring our comments and selectively giving commenters the ability to disable replies and ratings on their comments, among a host of unwarranted changes to the original, much more efficient and streamlined YouTube layout as a whole are just some of the many negative changes that are being made to YouTube. It's ethically wrong to force these changes unto an unwilling userbase as it alienates them while devaluing the quality of the site and tarnishing your credibility. This callous behavior needs to stop.

"Peter Felgenhauer" sums up the view of many YouTube users:

I shouldn't be forced to make a Google+ account to talk with my fellow users.

My colleague Joe Wilcox wrote an excellent piece yesterday on the reasons for the change and asked whether you should you trust Google with your identity. The answer is no you shouldn’t, but increasingly -- unless you create a fake Google account -- you have little choice.

While I’m not up in arms about the new system, for me the whole "comments sorted by people you care about first" perfectly describes everything I don’t want from a comment system. I liked the chaos of YouTube’s comments, made by people I didn’t know, and had no connection with aside from the most important one of all -- we’d watched the same video. YouTube and Google+ are not the same thing, despite Google’s attempt to tie them firmly together.

There are content creators on YouTube whose videos I love, and commenters I recognize and whose posts I enjoy -- but don’t want to follow on Google+ (why would I?). Similarly, there are people I follow on Google+ whose views on videos I couldn’t care less about, but now are suddenly being prioritized on YouTube because the search giant wants us to be BFF.

Here to Stay

Despite the speed at which the petition against the change is gathering signatures, it seems unlikely it will make any difference. Google has no intention of abandoning the new system, and petitions in the past pleading or demanding the search giant change its mind or listen to its users have all fallen on deaf ears.

Ultimately, Google knows it just has to ride out the unrest and in a week or so, or a month or so, the complaints will die back, and users will accept the new comment system that’s been forced upon them.

People don’t like change. Especially not on the web. Every time Facebook redesigns an element of the site, users revolt. As time goes on, however, the hated update becomes the standard version as people get used to it, and eventually they forget what it was like before. The same will happen with Google's new comment system.

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