“Let’s add each other on Google+!” said no one, ever… Until now.
“Fuck you, Google+”, says content creator Emma Blackery and so does a majority of her audience. Since Google bought YouTube back in late 2006, it has attracted around 1 billion unique users each month. It’s pretty safe to say that most people are aware of YouTube’s announcement of their new video comment requirements – you need a Google+ account now. If you haven’t heard about it, it might be wise to consider getting wifi for that rock under which you reside. Unsurprisingly, this caused quite an uproar in the YouTube community, amongst both commenters and creators (shock, horror). YouTube released a blog post entitled “Turning comments into conversations that matter to you.” However, does this matter to an audience that doesn’t want it? What can we do about this change?
Personally, I don’t mind the change; I use my Google+ for work and for playing Ingress (another Google endeavour). However, to others who may not be as interested, it may seem more like
an overbearing parent telling a child what to do, and many are throwing their toys out of the pram (through the medium of ASCII art) about being forced to engage in a new social network they don’t even want.
Even YouTube’s co-founder Jawed Karim has made his dislike for the change clear. He cleared all of his videos from YouTube apart from his first one, and left a comment along the lines of, “Why the fuck do I need a Google+ account to comment on a video?” (Quite frankly, not as entertaining as a ditty on a ukulele but he made his point clear.)
Meanwhile, Piediepew, one of YouTube’s hottest stars, disabled all comments from his videos for a short while, due to the fact that the new commenting systems lets people post urls. He said that his top comments were filled with “Links to virus sites, advertisers, self-advertisers, spam, copy and paste pics of dogs (I’m OK with those though).” So this new commenting system is not only irritating, but allows for exploitation.
So, good on you, Google. By making people use their real names, you have essentially held them to account for their comments, which should result in those people hopefully behaving better in the comments section of YouTube. To be honest, though, this Panopticon style of commenting makes me feel as if Big Brother is one step closer to becoming real: We will definitely mind our Ps and Qs if someone’s keeping tabs on us. But hasn’t anonymity always been a key aspect to the freedom of the internet? It has been proven that people are more comfortable to speak freely when under the cloak of anonymity, for better or worse. You could make a fake account if you really didn’t want people to know what you think of Miley Cyrus’ new song. Taking away anonymity is a double edged sword: sure, it might stop trolls, but it might also deter those who want to post honest comments. Will interaction on the site slow down after this momentous change?
Even though this move is YouTube’s attempt to clean up the commenting section, it does reek of the cheap whiff of blackmailing more people into signing up for Google+. Google hasn’t been the most open about its “activity” figures, they say that each month there are around 540 million active users who take part in “some sort” of social action and 300 million “in stream” monthly users. Maybe now that they are forcing people in a more overt way to switch over, they might see an increase in usage, perhaps.
The crux of all of this is essentially that YouTube has made a major change and we just have to deal with it. As users of a free site, we have no power over what they decide to do. We can moan all we like, but in a month’s time, no one will care any more. Remember all the Facebook updates? Yeah, neither do I. Do what you can to get around the commenting system; find an alternative video site, download a comment system blocking app (for Chrome), sign the online petition which has more than 206,000 signatures already, or just get on with your lives. I know I have more important things to be worrying about.
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