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On Google's Forceful Integration of Google+ with YouTube and the Online Backlash


Change is not always preferred, and if it is affecting networks guarded by communities, then you are surely playing with fire. Right now Google is in the midst of such an act after it went ahead and decided to clean up the YouTube comments, a much required move at a time when one school of thought is vouching to kill the anonymity within the Internet.

The roll out and features of the commenting system

Google made its intentions clear with the new development that YouTube would be hooked to the Google+ commenting system by the end of September, 2013. However, it rolled out the changes after testing the new developments on the channel discussion tabs in the first week of November. The change happened to ensure that “YouTube comments will become conversations that matter to you,” rather than conversations that you wouldn’t like to read.

Going further, the new change also means that the comments won’t be organized in chronological format;  YouTube will now rank them by relevancy, taking into account who wrote a comment, +1s, the number of replies and other signals to surface the best comments. Updates from the video’s creator or comment threads they participate in, as well as updates from people in your Google+ circles, will also rank highly. Users who prefer the old way can still switch from the “Top Comments” view to “Newest First.”


This also means that YouTube users have to connect their accounts to a Google+ page or profile, giving conversations a more genuine face. It also now allows you to control how you want to share the comments, i.e. private to a certain group or public, since Google Circles are in play now.  The commenting platform was good news for video creators who can moderate comments and at the same can now block certain words, auto-approve comments from certain fans (based on the circles they are in) and still review comments before they are posted. This gives more power to the content creators and brands that use the network to engage with their fans.

The good and the bad

Google has been pushing the integration of Google+ and YouTube for quite some time now. From last year onwards Google started asking users to connect their YouTube and Google+ accounts to give more authenticity to the video social network. Finally it rolled out the commenting platform powered by Google+ to not only clean the comments but also give the power to users to moderate the community themselves by allowing voting - a common method followed by most of the popular community driven platforms such as Quora and Reddit, which otherwise would end up turning into a spam network.

But what seems to be a way forward to make the video network more effective came with its trade-offs. You can’t reply to old comments, even ones made just hours before the new system kicked in. You also have to sign up for a Google+ account. Other issues included new comment notifications being delivered to a user’s Google+ inbox instead of their YouTube inbox, and top comments supposedly being from people you tangentially know on Google+.

The YouTube community revolts

Google might have expected a backlash with the move as many new changes face resistance. However, the thing that has annoyed people is the forceful integration of Google+ with YouTube. So even if you don’t want to use the social network – that is trying to catch up fast – you still will have to use it!

To start with, YouTube Co-Founder Jawed Karim openly criticized YouTube for the first time in eight years to express his displeasure. “Why the f–k do I need a Google+ account to comment on a video,” Karim said. Additionally, the YouTube help video that explains the new YouTube commenting has received more than 52K dislikes and more than 35K comments expressing displeasure.

The protests were shown on the Google products forum on Reddit too. The clear dissatisfaction was about Google shoving its social network down their throats. The discussion thread has received close to 3K upvotes and another 2.8K comments within 8 days of posting. If that was not enough, Emma Blackery, the Youtube star, had a musical profane message – “You ruined our site and called it integration / I’m writing this song just to vent our frustration / F**k you, Google Plusssssss!” The video since then has gotten more than 1M views and has received more than 172K likes. Click here to watch the video [warning: NSFW due to profanity].

Like Emma, I believe that Google isn’t going to back off from this, even though the online petition has collected more than 197K signatures. That's because this could be one of the moves that might get people to use Google Plus. To know how the numbers spiked on Google+ with this controversial move, we will have to wait for the next earnings calls.

For now Google seems to have revealed its cards in a smart way. With this move the social network will generate more engagement and Google will have a deeper level of understanding on your social graph with your conversation pattern on the YouTube videos. But will the commenting system reduce the spam on the network? I don’t think so – people can still post links, there is no character limit and moreover, obscenity is still rampant. The worst thing is that it is displaying the controversial comments as the most popular ones, as it is getting favorites from the most active Google+ users.

Guess Google will have to come up with a version 2.0 for its commenting system?

Image credit: Mashable

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