To no one’s surprise, users have expressed outrage at Youtube’s new real-name policy for comments. Is the video sharing site damaged forever?

This post has been updated to greater emphasize resistance of new comments by popular Youtube channels.

Well, that didn’t take long. Less than a month after announcing Youtube’s “tighter integration” with Google+, users of the popular video upload service are lashing out at Google for taking away a tenuous and important part of the internet at large: anonymity.

On Reddit, where anonymity continues to thrive, a post that calls for mass complaints to Google’s product page for forcing Youtube users to connect with Google+ — eliminating usernames of the past and enforcing a “real-name policy” — has raced to the front page of the website with more than 22,000 upvotes. The result has been a steady stream of complaints on the product forum, expressing outrage at Google for incorporating its social network.

“Isn’t this what Marketing departments are supposed to prevent? Aren’t they supposed to do, you know, market research *ahead* of time so a public lynching like this can be avoided?” wrote user Whoevers on the product forum board. “All it would take is a focus group, or a survey, or a beta test sampling, BEFORE having committed to this course of action.”

In addition to directly complaining to Google, users are also getting on board with a Change.org petition that calls for the company to roll back the Youtube commenting system to its former, anonymous state. As of this writing, more than 88,000 people have signed on in support of the effort, and it continues to grow quickly.

But it’s not just the average masses getting upset. Even Jawed Karim, the Youtube co-founder who famously posted the famous first video “Me at the Zoo”, broke an eight-year silence to complain about the changes, according to The Guardian.

The policy itself has clear intentions: take away anonymity, and there’s a possibility that Youtube’s comments will have better moderation. The website is already colloquially known for having some of the worst trolls and comments on the internet at large, which leaves videos like this Cheerios ad depicting an interracial family to ban comments altogether due to the level of racist comments it received when it was uploaded. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, and threats of rape and murder are commonplace on Youtube and on anonymous websites in general, so a real-name policy has the superficial benefit of keeping the peace while also driving traffic to Google+.

However, the system is clearly suffering from the same age-old challenges that plague companies interested in shining a light on the comments system. The internet, for better or worse, has been built on a platform of anonymity. As my colleague Mathew Ingram has indicated over many posts throughout the years, real names are tied to negative consequences — it deters people from interacting with others online and also doesn’t do as much to curb trolling as conventional thought would have many believe.

It will be interesting to see whether Google continues its course of action and keeps the real-name policy for good — and how much that decision will impact the use of Youtube overall. The comments system, especially for Youtube, is a tenuous but necessary tool — perhaps this low-key change has in fact irrevocably damaged the ecosystem Youtube has worked so hard to create.

Update: Unsurprisingly, Karim isn’t the only well-known Youtube figure speaking out about the change. Subreddit /r/youtube is keeping track of the many channel users who have also publicly denounced the new policy, including super-popular Youtube gamer PewDiePie. Thanks for the link, Adam Hoek.

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  1. Yep. YouTube seriously messed up on this one. It’d be a something if they paid attention to the feed back and changed back to how people prefer it.

    1. But we don’t know for sure what the numbers are telling them. Obviously there is a lot of vocal outrage, but what if all these people commenting represent less than 1% of the entire market. Most comments I read online are people’s being outraged, but most people I talk to in person are hardly even aware there are changes and/or just don’t care much. If Youtube starts experiencing a serious drop in usage I am sure Google will adjust, but otherwise, despite the outrage, why should they bother?

      1. I’m a producer, 200 vids, 3 million views. Comments are the pay back, the money doesn’t cover my cost of production. Comments are lessened, I can’t wade through the crazy google plus page to see them with all the gunk and ads, there is no one place for me to go to see the comments on all my videos for the day. Now, I can only reply on 1 comment! I get so many meaningful questions and feedback and points of view on every video. I teach cooking. My audience that comments are youngsters, beginners, and I love the interaction, it’ fuels me to make my channel. Rebecca Brand

      2. Without content providers, YouTube dies. Trust me, the content providers are aware of the change. According to the 80/20 rule, about 80 per cent of youtube’s traffic comes from about 20 percent of users. The more engaged you are with youtube, the more likely you are to be aware and angry.

    2. I assure you, there’s a far greater number of users who avoid participating in YouTube comments altogether because they are so disgusting. YouTube comment threads are the worst you will find on the internet.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this move has a massively positive effect on participation, and a reduction in the worst of the trolling.

  2. The goal isn’t to make Youtube comments better, that’s just the excuse , the goal is to push G+ and it’s just the new Google ,they behave as bad as everybody else (or almost ,they are not quite as evil as Apple but trying hard).

    1. You just don’t know enough about Google. For instance, with Google Base, they now require all copyright and ID information stripped from OUR OWN product photos so that they can use them to advertise for OTHER Google Base users. Really nice for us to spend all that time in the studio in order to prepare ad materials for our competitors, eh?

      And don’t underestimate the damage that can be done by this real name nonsense. It muzzles anyone who is being stalked, anyone trying to stay clear of harassment by ex’es, totalitarian governments, it stifles whistle-blowing and political speech, it can put people on vacation at risk for their possessions at home — in short, it curtails and harms freedom on many levels. Google is doing exactly the wrong thing here and does not deserve our support.

      1. Dude, just make another G+ account then, done.

        1. Fake accounts may only carry you so far. Down the road, if Google decided to clamp down, it’ll be harder to complain. Now is the time to raise your voice

      2. I wish there was a like button for this comment, but there is none. So I shall express my approval the old-fashioned way: Explicitly.

      3. Facebook has a real names only policy. Maybe we should ask Amanda Todd if that helped her manage being bullied.

        Oh wait that’s right, you can’t. She took her own life in October of 2012


        The worst bullying stories always come from Facebook, where real names are required. Do a serch for “Facebook Bullies” and see for yourself.. They want us to use our real names because when our friends can find us they’ll join G+, and share more information. The idea that real names will clean up the internet is either a dangerous delusion or a cynical lie. When real names are outlawed, only outlaws have real names. The trolls and bullies will maintain their anonymity, but they’ll be able to find out all about you.

    2. This is the situation in a nut shell.

  3. Reddit and forum comments are rarely favorable. YouTube comments were horrible and anything would be an improvement. People just don’t like change, they threw hissy fits sometime the site changed design, and there was a large one when they changed the ratings system, it’s just the circle of life if the internet.

    1. Exactly. Anytime a social media site changes anything, people will throw a fit as if the world is coming to an end. Changes happen, and will continue to happen. On a site with hundreds of millions of users, 90k complaints isn’t going to make them change back to an already proven broken system. I don’t think this change will do what they hoped, but it can’t be worse than sticking with dysfunctional.

        1. Hahahahahahaha!!! ^^^^ Exactly right. I signed up for G+ when it first came out, and like a year later I get a nastygram from some douche telling me I need to use my real name.

          Well……… they can kiss my ass. I don’t use my real name online, for the most part. This is why when I check my credit report, I am never surprised.

          Google+, and now YouTube, can suck it.

  4. Last i checked no HAS to use youtube. Does anyone but clebes and tech writers even use their real names on G+?

    1. It’s the principle of the thing. I stopped using G+ because I don’t want to use a bogus name. I use the “handle” I use, and I’ve used it for ages. If I have to call myself “John Smith”, at the direction of some impotent nerd from Silicon Valley, I refuse to use the site.

      The same now goes for YouTube. If I need to share a video, I’ll use email, or host it on my own damn server and send a link.

  5. Time to make a new Youtube without google, without adds, without real names, without the NSA having access google…

    1. You get right on that, and let me know how a no “ads” approach works for content creators who hope to make revenue. The biggest youtube channels aren’t hobbies, it is time consuming work.

    2. Have fun with that philanthropic exercise that will cost something on the order of $5M per month to run. Not including the cost to build out all of that infrastructure, etc.

      People need to accept that content costs money to make and deliver, and if you want that content it’s either ads or subscription fees, your choice. But please, grow the F up and quit expecting everything for free.

  6. just create a new google+ identity for your youtube identity like I did ( i have 2 google plus accounts me and my youtube identity ) and problem solved

  7. What if you don’t put your real name in the box called “real name”?

    1. The NSA comes to your house and takes your cookies away from you.

  8. thegreatignarus Monday, November 11, 2013

    Google bought youtube for a pile of money and they’re losing money hosting so much free video. It shouldn’t come as *that* much of a surprise that Google is looking to monetize the viewership of their investment.

    And it’s hypcritical for youtube’s creator to act like this isn’t what he knew was going to happen when he sold his extremely popular, but non-revenue-generating company for an extraordinary profit.

    1. “non-revenue-generating”?

      1.) do you know what revenues are?
      2.) YouTube generates plenty.

      1. At the time of sale their revenue was considered immaterial. That’s what the prior poster was referring to.

  9. Anonymity should be banned from ALL internet forums. It’s about time for users to be held accountable for their words.

    1. Christopher A. Fortunato Riversong Monday, November 11, 2013

      Sure thing, “Riversong” IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME!

      1. LOL, ‘Riversong’ indeed.

    2. Oh that is beautiful!

      Obviously there is a lot of vocal outrage, but what if all these people commenting represent less than 1% of the entire market.

      What market are you talking about? You need to understand that the YouTube users. aren’t the customers. We’re the product. The customers are the advertisers they sell our information to.

      Does anybody doubt that they could easily create a button to simply remove belligerent users from your youtube globally? That would be simple, and more effective than this. This is about getting your information. If they can get your real name in a facebook-style social network that’s connected to your youtube and your gmail, and your chrome, and your google drive, and whatever, they’re going to know everything about you.

      What market are you talking about? You need to understand that the YouTube c

    3. I’d like to see you say “hello my name is Riversong and” before you make every statement in real life.

  10. i, for one, am FOR this change. It will hopefully the profanity-spewing, derogatory a&&hats from commenting as much.

    1. Not sure if you are trolling or retarded.

      Go take a look at all the ASCII dicks and swastikas being spammed.

      It’s almost cute how stupid you are to believe such a thing.

    2. More to the point, consider Facebook, where real names have always been required. Do a search for “Facebook Bullies” and see how many suicides happened this month.

      And let me make this clear. I have nothing against Google making money from advertising. They are absolutely entitled.

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