YouTube Tries to Hide Lousy Comments With Redesign

For YouTube (s GOOG), 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.

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