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Summary:

For YouTube, being the most popular video site in the world has some disadvantages, including a comments section that trends toward attracting the lowest common denominator. Indeed, if you’ve ever spent any time on the site, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the signal-to-noise ratio for YouTube comments […]

For YouTube, being the most popular video site in the world has some disadvantages, including a comments section that trends toward attracting the lowest common denominator. Indeed, if you’ve ever spent any time on the site, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the signal-to-noise ratio for YouTube comments is pretty low. Well, the company is trying to change that, with a redesign that highlights comments that are either highly rated or come directly from the video uploader, while de-emphasizing those that aren’t.

Back in January, YouTube said it was cleaning up its act with a new design for video pages, which puts videos front and center and changes the way users ratings work. Now it’s extending that redesign further to include changing the way user comments are displayed.

If you’ve opted in to viewing YouTube pages with the new design, you can see how the new comment section works pretty clearly on this video page. Rather than seeing a full list of all comments on a particular video, from most recent to oldest, viewers will now see uploader comments highlighted first, along with the comments to which the uploader is responding. They’re followed by the most highly rated comments and video responses to the video in question. You can see the most recent comments that have been made on the video way down at the bottom of the video page, with a link to view all comments.

With the redesign it seems YouTube is trying to hide comments that don’t add a whole lot of value to the site — which would mean most of them. But by extension, it may also be trying to influence user behavior. Since not all comments will be viewable on the video page, and will in fact be hiding behind the ‘view all comments’ link, there’s less incentive for users to add comments unless they have something of value to say.

To opt in to the new design, users need only click this link when logged in, which will change the look and feel of video pages. To opt back out, they just go to this page.

Related GigaOM Pro content:

Why Viacom’s Fight With YouTube Threatens Web Innovation (subscription required)

  1. This new comment system is a horrible mess. I really don’t understand how anyone at YouTube thought this was a good idea.

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  2. [...] of the biggest issues addressed with the relaunch is the comment section, which has been kind of unruly at times. The new design doesn’t feature comments in reverse [...]

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  3. I co-sign the previous comment. It is total rubbish but I give YT the benefit of the doubt that they’ll tidy it up before the bad press will have an impact on their hit volume.

    The problem with the comment rating system is that the ‘lowest common denominator’ (we can safely call them the ‘intellectually challenged’) will rate intelligent comments down and let nonsense, bigotry and other primitive grunts yet rise to the top. I reckon only the uploader of the video should be enabled to rate comments. At least it would be an indicator of the intention and mentality of the uploader.

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  4. [...] YouTube’s desire to bring civility to its sometimes rowdy comments section. YouTube already changed the way comments are displayed with a redesign that was rolled out two months ago. While the site used to display comments in [...]

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  5. Nobody likes change, but you all get over it eventually. The only downside I can see to the new comment section is how everybody just comments with “thumbs up if”

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  6. I don’t mind the new Youtube layout, but I honestly wish they’d bring back the option to hide comments again.

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