YouTube Removes Dislike Count – Painful for Tutorial Watchers


With YouTube being such a versatile tool for creators, let’s examine the pros and cons of this somewhat alarming change.

Ok, we’ve all been on the internet long enough to have gone through several cycles of social media apps or websites implementing a new design on their platform, often met with instant disdain. Equally, users often display distaste for a new feature that wasn’t wanted—or one that gets removed, in this case.

The idea of removing the dislike count has floated around for quite some time. And, over the last year, YouTube has been experimenting with the feature with a select number of users and videos. However, last week, YouTube officially announced that they’ll start to remove the public dislike count across the entire platform.

First, I have to say I rarely like or dislike videos, and as someone who creates videos and measures the metrics of videos from the like to dislike ratio, that’s probably not the best thing to admit. But, if I’m watching the latest NFL highlights, a trailer, a cool music video, I’ll usually go in, watch the media, and leave. It’s only when it comes down to actionable content that I tend to like a video, and that’s where I think removing the dislike count will be the most detrimental.

Now, it’s important to note that the dislike button will not be removed. The functionality of the dislike button will remain, but YouTube will remove the actual count displayed next to the dislike button from public view. Meaning, you can still dislike a video, but only the creator will see the dislike count.

Why Is the Dislike Count Being Removed?

As Matt Koval, the creator liaison, says in the announcement video:

I’ve always thought the dislike count on the video helps us know if it’s a good video or not. If it’s a helpful tutorial or not. If what a creator is saying in the video is generally agreed with or not. However, the research teams at YouTube have found a wholly different use for the dislike button.

– Matt Koval

The harmful use Matt talks about is targeted dislike campaigns, similar to that of review bombing. A process where internet users en masse give a film a low score before watching the content, usually because they don’t like what the film promotes.

This happened with the 2018 Marvel film Captain Marvel because it was touted as a feminist superhero film, and equally titular actress Brie Larson is quite politically active.

The process even transpires to the world of video games. The 2020 smash hit The Last of Us: Part II received 5,000 zero out of ten scores moments after audience reviews were allowed on Metacritic.

Now, to side with Matt, I’ve certainly seen the dislike campaigns in action. Speaking of Captain Marvel, when Brie Larson created a YouTube channel during the early stages of the pandemic, her initial videos were heavily targeted by trolls. They received thousands of dislikes, despite the videos containing no polarizing comments. In fact, they were largely about the Nintendo Switch game Animal Crossing or cooking.

With targeted dislike bombing, the creators’ mental health can take a toll, which YouTube says they’re trying to protect. Which, in itself, is fair enough.

But is the removal of the dislike count the correct answer? Especially as disgruntled users will now take to the comments and leave even worse messages, opposed to a measly dislike.

However, and somewhat contradictory to the point YouTube is making, Koval later says,

Without a public dislike count, how can viewers tell if a video is worth watching? It turns out while viewers might use the dislike count to give them a sense of a video’s worth when teams looked at the data across millions of viewers and videos in the experiment, they didn’t see a noticeable difference in viewership, regardless of whether they could see the dislike count or not.

– Matt Koval

To me, at least, that statement entirely contradicts the purpose of removing the dislike count. If the dislike count doesn’t detract from people watching, why does it harm creators who are the backend of a dislike campaign? Especially when creators can currently turn off the functionality of likes and dislikes.

As previously mentioned, it’s important to note that while they are removing the public dislike count, they’re not removing it from the backend. Creators and publishers can still see how many dislikes their videos receive and use that for feedback regarding what’s working. If that’s analytic, you use it to analyze the performance of your videos.

Where Does This Put Viewers

I did initially note that I rarely use the like and dislike button myself, except for actionable content. What I mean by that is content that serves as a tool—a.k.a. tutorials, walkthroughs, how-to videos, etc. When I search for a tutorial, I look at the like to dislike ratio before I skim through the video. This tells me one thing, and it’s the most important factor, does the creator do what the video is titled?

If I see a video called “How to Fix a Stuck Mirror on the 5D Mk IV,” and it has more dislikes than likes, or even if the like bar is a third filled with dislikes, I already know that the information isn’t valuable. My time will be better served searching for another video.

Again, Koval states that no other platform has a dislike bar, so it’s not as if it should be some big deal. However, arguably, no other platform is like YouTube.

MKBHD offers a similar sentiment in his second “Dear YouTube!” video embedded above. Given that 720,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube daily, having the function to distinguish whether or not a video is worth watching is a feature that should be implemented, not taken away.

It’ll be interesting to see how this impacts both creators and viewers going forward. However, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a revised section to this article in a few weeks, with the update being scrapped.

From YouTube’s Press Release

Heres what to expect based on how you use YouTube:

  • Creators: You’ll still be able to find your exact dislike counts in YouTube Studio for each videoonly if you’d like to. Creators will still be able to find their exact dislike counts in YouTube Studio if they would like to understand how their content is performing. There are many other metrics available to help you analyze your video and channel performance, so review this Help Center Guide that covers YouTube Analytics tools and reports. We especially recommend visiting the “Engagement tab” in Studio and checking out key moments for audience retention.
  • Viewers: You can still dislike videos to further personalize and tune your recommendations. The only change is you won’t be able to view the number of dislikes on the video. We understand that some of you have used dislikes to help decide whether or not to watch a video—still, we believe this is the right thing to do for our platform, and to help create an inclusive and respectful environment where creators have the opportunity to succeed and feel safe to express themselves.
  • Developers: If you’re using the YouTube API for dislikes, you will no longer have access to public dislike data beginning on December 13th. Your end users will still be able to view dislike data related to their own content on authenticated API requests. You can apply for an exemption (to have dislike data on non-authenticated calls) as long as you don’t display or share dislike data with your end users.

Here are a few YouTube tips, tricks, and advice for you:


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