Why YouTube Will Love Google+ Comments

When Google+ was integrated into YouTube, an epic culture clash erupted. Yet the move reveals much about Google's larger strategy.
Posted November 13, 2013

Mike Elgan

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The only thing YouTube fans and Google+ freaks can agree upon this week: YouTube users are revolting.

Last week, Google implemented the previously announced integration of YouTube with Google+.

Some prominent YouTube personalities have created videos expressing outrage that YouTube users now need Google+ accounts to comment. They say Google+ ruins YouTube.

But big-name Google+ personalities are expressing the opposite view. They say Google+ fixes what was horribly broken about YouTube, which is a commenting system that favors spammers, trolls, racists, misogynists and haters.

One point of contention is that Google+ comments make it harder for people to comment anonymously. Google+ allows people to use nicknames, but it's still tied to their persistent identity on Google+.

People who post videos on YouTube now have total control over comments, enabling them to post publicly or privately to any person or group of people and also delete comments.

Other users can now be "plus-mentioned," and they'll be notified of the mention. YouTube's old character limit of 500 words has also been replaced by Google+'s virtually unlimited character count for comments. A new translate button enables people who speak different languages to hold a conversation.

But the system also shows each user his own customized view of comments, with the people one follows on Google+ displayed higher than strangers and the whole comments thread ranked like a Google Search (with quality comments on top and dreck at the bottom).

People who post videos can also block certain words. Neither of these features (custom-ranking of comments and keyword blocking) are possible on Google+, so some of the changes are exclusive to YouTube.

In general, the new system tames YouTube's anything-goes comments where any troll can hijack a conversation.

The response on YouTube was characteristically profane and hostile. One prominent YouTube personality named Emma Blackery wrote and performed a song about the integration, complete with salty language and middle fingers, for emphasis.

Another YouTube performer using the nickname AtheneWins posted a conspiracy theory that Google was faking pro-Google+ comments under Blackery's and his own videos.

Even the original YouTube user, company co-founder Jawed Karim and the guy who uploaded the site's very first video, posted a one-sentence complaint asking "why the **** do i need a google+ account to comment on a video?." Karim hadn't posted in eight years, and the sentence is the only thing on his YouTube profile. (Karim sold the company to Google years ago, and is not now associated with either YouTube or Google.)

There are multiple petitions cropping up, including this one on Change.org, which has gained more than 105,000 signatures.

While the change was treated as some kind of apocalypse on YouTube, on Google+ it was just another Tuesday. Nearly every day a new Google service is integrated in some way or another with Google+.

When I asked Google+ users what they thought of the integration, nearly all said it was a good move that strongly improves YouTube. (And of course the comments were thoughtful, articulate and polite. This is the tone Google hopes to bring to YouTube.)

What YouTubers Will Learn

The irony in the YouTube backlash is that when the dust settles and the emotion subsides, I believe both YouTube content creators and YouTube users will become among the biggest fans of Google+. Here's why.

An interesting cultural phenomenon happens online in which the specific characteristics of any social network favor certain personality types. One kind of person dominates Twitter, for example, and another Facebook. The same is true for YouTube and Google+.

“Charismatic attention-seeker” personalities tend to dominate YouTube, which makes sense because it’s all video. “Brainy influencer” types tend to dominate Google+. It's truly a clash of cultures. However, that clash is going to turn into harmony.

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Tags: YouTube, social media, google+, video consumption

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