YouTube has launched a new experiment which will see public dislike counts removed on some creators' videos, as part of a broader effort to reduce the impact of negative behaviors on the platform.
???????? In response to creator feedback around well-being and targeted dislike campaigns, we're testing a few new designs that don't show the public dislike count. If you're part of this small experiment, you might spot one of these designs in the coming weeks (example below!). pic.twitter.com/aemrIcnrbx— YouTube (@YouTube) March 30, 2021
As noted by YouTube, the test aims to address concerns around targeted dislike campaigns and the impact of negative indicators on user well-being.
Creators will still be able to see their full like and dislike counts in YouTube Studio, and viewers will still be able to like and dislike videos as normal, and those votes will still count towards video ranking in the app. But the removal of total counts could help to take away some of the negative stigma around such, which could help make people feel more comfortable in sharing their content.
It's similar to Instagram's experiment with the removal of public like counts, which it's still refining based on user feedback almost a year into the test. Most recently, Instagram has begun testing a new option that would enable users to display public like counts if they choose, with their posts otherwise reflecting a non-numeric indicator of post likes.
The idea is fairly basic - without the competition of like counts, or the negative framing of dislikes in YouTube's case, that could help remove some of the pressure from posting, easing the potential stress of such in order to help people feel more free in sharing.
That could get more people posting more often - and clearly, given Instagram has been experimenting with such for so long, there's at least some level of merit in the project.
Public like counts, and other 'vanity' metrics, have become a bigger topic of focus for social apps of late, as the platforms grapple with the best ways to ensure an optimal user experience, and reduced societal, and mental pressure from the same.
Back in 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey noted that he wanted to make follower and Like counts a less significant element in his app - even going so far as to say that follower counts are 'meaningless', and potentially harmful overall.
As per Dorsey:
“If I had to start the service again, I would not emphasize the ‘follower’ count as much. I would not emphasize the ‘like’ count as much. [...] It doesn’t actually push what we believe now to be the most important thing, which is healthy contribution back to the network and conversation to the network.”
On YouTube, likes and dislikes do serve a more functional purpose, in defining the popularity, and thus, the reach of content, at least to some degree. But the impetus here is largely the same - by highlighting negative elements, you also create competition around such, and shift the focus away from the most important elements of social interaction.
The addition of dislike 'brigading', which weaponizes the feature for harm, is another consideration for YouTube, and as such, the removal of total counts could be a positive, in various ways.
It's early days, and we don't have any data to go on right now, but it could be a worthy experiment - and really, it's worth all platforms experimental with the removal of such metrics to see how they impact overall engagement and behavior.
If the de-emphasis or removal of such measures can improve the user-experience, it makes sense to lessen their presence.
You can read more about YouTube's dislike count removal experiment here.