Over time, social platform verification tools have become a minefield of confusion, both for users and creators alike.
Ask anyone who has a verified Instagram profile how their inbox is looking, and they'll detail the hundreds of unsolicited messages they get weekly from users asking for help to get themselves also verified. Twitter had to halt its verification process entirely (sort of) due to internal confusion over what its blue checkmark actually meant, while questions continue to be raised over what verification means externally. Does this mean that the platform endorses the content on this channel?
To clarify its own process, YouTube has this week announced changes to its verification process, which it hopes will clear up confusion, and ensure that the right people and channels are getting its mark of approval.
First off, from a visual standpoint, YouTube's removing its verified badges that currently appear to the right of channel names in favor of a new, gray swipe across the entire channel title.
As explained by YouTube:
"Currently, verified channels have a checkmark next to their channel name. Through our research, we found that viewers often associated the checkmark with an endorsement of content, not identity. To reduce confusion about what being verified means, we’re introducing a new look that helps distinguish the official channel of the creator, celebrity or brand it represents."
One of the main drivers behind this change is the fact that profiles can easily fake verification by manually adding their own a checkmark to their channel name. The new display will render this approach obsolete, while it'll also ensure that YouTube's verification display is consistent across platforms.
As noted by TechCrunch:
"The checkmark itself only really worked when people viewed the channel’s main watch page on desktop or mobile. It didn’t translate as well to interactions in live chats, on community posts or in stories."
In addition to this aesthetic update, YouTube is also overhauling its requirements for channel verification, which could see some channels that are currently verified lose that status.
As per YouTube:
"Under our current eligibility requirements, channels with more than 100,000 subscribers can be verified regardless of need for proof of authenticity. That worked well when YouTube was smaller, but as YouTube has grown, and the ecosystem has become more complex, we needed a new way to verify the identity of channels and help users find the official channel they’re looking for."
In other words, people can simply buy YouTube followers and get themselves to that verified status level.
To fix this, YouTube says that it will now be looking at a new set of contextual factors, outside of follower counts alone, in order to determine if a channel meets the key criteria.
Those factors will include:
- Authenticity - Does this channel belong to the real creator, artist, public figure or company it claims to represent?
- Prominence - Does this channel represent a well-known or highly searched creator, artist, public figure or company? Is this channel widely recognized outside of YouTube and have a strong presence online? Is this a popular channel that has a very similar name to many other channels?
The changes are set to come into effect next month, and YouTube has already begun sending out notes to profiles which will lose their verified status as a result of these changes, with a link to an appeals option.
YouTube's hoping that the changes will clarify what its verification process means, ensuring that users have a better experience on the platform. The gray swipe seems a little bland, and it wouldn't be surprising to see YouTube update it at some stage, but the updated requirements should make it a more robust and accountable system - though as noted, verification processes like this always run into problems.
You can read more about YouTube's verification changes here.
UPDATE (9/20): After significant backlash to its original announcement, YouTube has decided not to remove verification from previously approved channels, and to delay the communicated changes to the verification badge format till next year.