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YouTube will delete existing video annotations on January 15, 2019 (support.google.com)
372 points by ivank 57 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 212 comments

I have seen a number of (like, many many) videos where annotations were used for corrections on the content, so now all of that content is going to be wrong :(.

I realize that these things are sometimes annoying, and that mobile users couldn't see them... but they existed, and were part of the content--in many cases I have seen, because the video publisher didn't know how to do editing and so used the annotation feature to do it instead--and now that content is going to be damaged, forever.

FWIW, this was effectively the only way to fix content after it had been posted without changing the URL... something you would expect to be a critical feature of any publishing platform, and one that Google themselves has used at times and offered to close partners because clearly they need that feature themselves, but which YouTube doesn't really provide and apparently has now decided to provide even less :(.

In my opinion they should print all the annotations with their respective times to the description of the videos that still have them, with a remark like

"Google Backup of annotations:

03:01-3:35 annotation text content"

Or they could keep an archive of the annotations and provide a process for the video owners to choose to have Google 'bake' them into the video permanently after they've been shut off from being used by mainstream YT interfaces. Annotation links could be visually represented in a way that indicates their link could now be found in the description.

Too much effort, won't happen. When you care only about view count and not the content, it's easier to just deprecate and delete.

Agreed. I see it happen all of the time.

Note that that won't suffice for the purposes mentioned above, as oftentimes the annotation would, say, replace a specific word in the text; the replacing word by itself won't be very meaningful, as you won't know what it was intended to replace.

It's still more useful than simply banishing them to the void.

How about adding the coordinates in the screen that it replaces? Some percentage distance from top left.

Even I couldn't reliably determine which word was replaced given screen coordinates, and I spend half my time pushing pixels around (web design & photography).

Yeah, in order for this to be usable, it would need a better UI. Maybe some kind of overlay: it could automatically position the annotations at the correct position relative to the video, and make them appear and disappear at the appropriate times.

I wonder if implementing something like that would be technically feasible.

You are proposing rebuilding the existing feature Google wants to turn off.

That's the joke

They could also add them to a specific captions track

That seems like a good compromise to me too. I can't say that I'm sad to see the annotations go though, they were so often abused that they were permanently turned off on my side, corrections or otherwise. I'm not generally a an of breaking things for the sake of breaking things but I think it's a good move on Google's part.

The abuse could've been stopped very easily. The main problem were link annotations, so a simple popup on click, saying "The video wants to redirect you to [url]." "Continue/cancel" would've been enough. Disallowing annotations in a 10% border inside the video and only allowing all annotations to cover at most 50% of the screen on top that would cover all or the cases I can think of.

Limiting their size would cut down on the clickjacking annotations, but wouldn't deal with the hated "buy our merch!" annotations that were damaging to the video content and led to people turning annotations off. I think simply removing all links would be clear and effective, without damaging the error-correction use.

The third common use that I've seen is linking to other videos, and that's the one that YouTube's replacements systems tackle.

Another somewhat noteworthy thing is that the annotation system is tied to YouTube's channel logo overlay. Once the annotations go, it's likely that the logo will not be hideable anymore.

> and that mobile users couldn't see them...

Which is ENTIRELY on Google.

Same BS answer was made when Google discontinued their "instant search" feature. You could type and search results would pop up while you were typing.

Presumably discontinued because it ate into their ability to show ads, which means that this sounds like a fruitful opportunity for differentiation by search engines that don't rely on ad revenue.

...or they discontinued it because it was a crap experience. I turned off "instant search" in every browser I used. It was awful.

Maybe. But that was not the reason given.

Unfortunately the technology still limits this in many cases.

I genuinely don’t believe it. They’re not using the native video player in their apps. If they can overlay controls they can overlay annotations.

What about the mobile site?

There's no NPAPI plugin required for desktop users to view annotations. All of YouTube works using standardized web tech, and mobile browsers and desktop browsers are the same underlying engines with different chrome. There's no technical reason why annotations couldn't work on the mobile site, though from a UI perspective you'd need to size them appropriately for fingers to interact with. It's not that Google can't, it's that they simply don't want to.

That's not quite true. If you want to view the video in fullscreen on iOS it'll just show the content of the video tag and nothing else. They're working on Fullscreen API support, though.


I think it’s more to do with Apple actually.

I don’t believe google could place them on a full screen video on iOS.

Huh? I am an iOS developer and I’m certainly not aware of any technical restrictions here.

The YouTube app overlays all kinds of things over full screen video. Link boxes while ads play, for example.

This was more about suitability for the screen format - multiple boxes with small text just didn’t work too well on mobile.

What is or isn’t allowed on iOS limits the Android app? Of course iOS users are a significant amount, but they could do something for only a mere like 90% of their mobile user base. It’s just that annotations weren’t working with their mouse focus, while cards have been there as a replacement since forever in internet age.

(More towards saurik) Maybe it’s very noble to want to hoard annotations on 100 views cat videos from 2009, but I’m sure the amount of significant losses that won’t be solved by simply adding a comment to the video is next to nothing.

Absolutely nothing prevents Youtube from embedding the annotations in the video for playback on restricted devices.

Yes it's at least partly about Apple and it's partly the fact that Apple doesn't allow browser competition (only skinned Safari).

If Apple allowed browser competition then Firefox and Chrome would likely support fullscreen mode (like they both do on Android) and Apple would effectively be pushed to add it to mobile Safari or lose market share.

On the other hand I wish Google would give me the option to bake in the annotations if they're going to remove them. I have a few instructional videos with corrections in the annotations. Those will be gone and the videos will end up being wrong.

The web view is just a widget. If you want to make it full screen, make it full screen. Apple is t stopping you.

OK So I'm trying to understand. This is about using some Google software to annotate videos without actually changing the underlying video? I'm made annotations, but always in my video software (openshot or whatever) so they are baked into the video. They should still work ok. It would be pretty easy to do this for things you really needed. Just import your video and add some keyframes with the overlay. Or maybe you lose your URL when you edit?

and just not leave everything up to Google to decide in the future IMHO.

EDIT: reading farther down, I see the answer to the latter half: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18540470

That is one solution.

For me the issue is time. Adding the annotation took 1-2 mins. Downloading the video on youtube (since I no longer have the source material), then loading that into some video editor, adding the annotations, rendering it, and re-uploading it would easily take 1hr per video. So IMO it's not really a good solution. I don't have the time.

Personally I think they should keep the annotations and keep the source video. When you change the annotations they can re-render the video on their end. Keep the 1-2 minute workflow

Using webkit engine to build a browser is not skinning Safari.

There is much more to the browser than rendering engine.

But as far as what APIs you can expose to JS there is a limit. Can you expose WebGL2? Fullscreen? Screen Orientatio API? WebVR? WebAssembly? Input type=Color, OffscreenCanvas? or do you have to wait for Apple to add them to the base iOS WebKit? Can you fix the fact that iOS Safari shows very poor performance animating while streaming assets?

The youtube app has its own frontend for video playback.

True, but not within safari.

Why anybody would play YouTube videos in Safari on iOS? Don't tell me iOS don't open YouTube links in YouTube app automatically?

Why should I install a separate app just for Youtube when the website works fine?

I thought the premise of this subthread was that the website doesn't work fine.

I find it infuriating when I am on google, click a link and the yelp app just opens without any sort of warning. Youtube isnt far behind. If i already had something open in one of those apps, and was coming back to it, my state is cleared.

That doesn't happen if you don't have the yelp app installed.

Don't reward their shitty dark patterns[0] by installing their app. They have a site that is perfectly amenable to being consumed in a web browser on your phone. They're _already done the work_ to make it work well on your phone, but then they kneecapped it and turned the hard work of all those engineers and designers into lead-gen for their app so they can get your location data.

m.yelp.com: This page will open in another application.

me: tHiS PAgE wiLl OPEn iN aNOtheR ApPliCaTIon.

[0] You can only see the first few pictures, you can only read the first fifty words of each review, and every attempt to go beyond that[1] is met with a redirect to the App Store app

[1] no, they don't make it clear that clicking that "read more" link is going to send you to another app.

to me its more the operating system and or browser fault.

we have PROTOCOL already. if i want it to open in yelp it should either start the link with yelp:// or food:// and my os should default to my default food app. if its https:// keep it in my damn browser. google should let me set link rewrite settings per site or type, if i say for example WANT https://youtube to be rewritten on the fly as youtube://filename

I use Brave to watch videos, never the Youtube app, which I don't have installed. It at least gives the illusion that I have control over the requests Youtube is making from my phone. God only knows how much sneaky data collection they do with the app...

Permissions requested on Android: Camera, microphone, contacts, storage.

Because YouTube has entirely ethical and noninvasive reasons for needing access to contact data and unprompted file storage.

For Android there is F-Droid.

> Lightweight YouTube frontend that's supposed to be used without the proprietary YouTube-API or any of Google's (proprietary) play-services.


It even allows to stream audio only while turning the screen off.

Can you record videos with the youtube app? that would explain Camera and microphone.

Contacts is probably for sharing videos and storage might be cache?

Used to be if you used Safari you can play video in the background. On iPad it also meant you can get picture-in-picture. Not sure if those "tricks" still work.

Can confirm this doesn't work anymore, and hasn't for a while actually. (There is, however, a wonderful Jailbreak tweak that restores the functionality.)

Try Opera Mini on IOS.

Which is one reason, among many, for YouTube to build a native application.

They already have one. I think they had one on the very first iPhone even.

iPhone owner since the very first iPhone - I know ;)

Can you make them non-interactable and bake them in there? Maybe a second layer video shown on top?

How does the endscreen functionality work then?

You can't and never could do so why implement it?

I can empathize with content creators on this. Especially on technical and/or scientific videos. I believe the description can be edited after publishing. I've also found them to be abused, and that's why I've had them disabled for quite some time.

There is a reason you can't edit a video after it's uploaded. Because you could upload a good video, get it to go viral, and switch it out with an advertisement or something else that isn't worthy of attention.

> FWIW, this was effectively the only way to fix content after it had been posted without changing the URL

Is it not possible to re-upload a video to Youtube?

You can always reupload, but the new video will have a different link. Which is a nightmare if it got popular on a link aggregation site.

Worse, there was content on YouTube that used the annotation system to implement choose-your-own-adventure type stories and hidden easter egg videos. That content is now not just wrong, it's broken and unusable.

It's almost become the Google motto of late that they will break their own products and make your existing content unusable in some way.

You'd think Google would prioritize shipping the ability to replace the underlying video file for a video since it's impossible to do so: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/55770?co=GENIE.Pla...

But no. You can trim your video. You can delete it entirely, and suffer the consequences. But you can't simply fix and replace a video that may have had erroneous content and videos which had been "patched" by annotations in the past will now appear without context (aside from descriptions perhaps).

That's some impressively lousy product stewardship, and I say this as someone who mostly disliked annotations as most people here seem to.

I totally understand that youtube doesn't want people replacing video files. That feature would be abused like hell.

What's wrong with uploading a new video "Original Title [Update Nov 2018]", and linking to that in the description?

What kind of argument is that when machine learning is extensively used to prosecute DMC and copyright violations? Why not detect video similarity as well and determine a cutoff under which a newly uploaded video is "too altered" and cannot be used to replace an existing video?

You don't need machine learning to do that. Even something like p-hash of every frame and if more than some threshold aren't the same, then it can't be replaced. I guess over the course of dozens of replacements you could replace the whole video, but you could always just store the p-hash of the whole original video, or even some sample of it, and always compare against that and not the most recent version.

Absolutely, I was just saying that a lot of effort is already put into pattern analysis for videos so that licensing partners can be pleased. It's not like it's technically impossible. The real reason is that Google doesn't have the incentive because it simply doesn't care about its users' happiness. It merely wants to lock them in. What other service will people migrate to when they are annoyed by YouTube?


> That feature would be abused like hell.

It would if done naievely; one seemingly-simple fix for all the problems I've seen in this thread: have multiple video versions as an explicit part of the API. You can link to a specific version, youtube can clearly show a flag saying "there's a newer version of this video available, do you want to watch that instead?", it can show comments and likes for all versions in one place (with a badge saying "this comment was made on an old version" if appropriate), etc


> Different version, different video.

In the context we're talking about, do you believe the comments on video A (10 minutes of maths lecture with a typo in one of the digrams) would be hugely different from the comments on video B (10 minutes of maths lecture with that typo corrected); so much so that it's worth throwing out all the early comments and starting from scratch? Or are you thinking of some other use-case?

> I don’t want to additionally have to pay attention to whether we watched the same video or not.

Good news for you then! Making "video version number" part of the API means that you can filter those out programatically too :)

You've contributed to the discussion, but your opening gambit was inflammatory and I respectfully suggest that you tone it down in future. Just thought you should know that I was close to ignoring you outright because of your tone.

View counts, and any learning 'the algorithm' has done to understand how popular the original title was, get lost.

But if it was allowed, view counts & popularity learning could be assigned to a completely different video that is uploaded as an "edit"

How is that different to just allowing editing of the video content itself?

They're saying you could upload a pirated episode of Game of Thrones, get 100k views, switch the content and title to "My Newest Vlog!", and keep the views.

How is that different from uploading half a pirated episode of Game of Thrones and replacing the other half with your newest vlog? People could try it, but I think they'd notice that lots of views can be a bad thing if most viewers react negatively.

If it happens anyway, view counts could be disaggregated into "total" and "since last update".

But you can do exactly that on your own website, and for some reason we don't have an epidemic of bait-and-switch blogs. Why would it be different on YouTube?

YouTube tracks views and other popularity / credibility statistics for videos. Your personal blog doesn't -- it's even easier to just put up "My Newest Vlog!" with a little number claiming to have 100,000 views. Why would you need to do a bait-and-switch?

> for some reason we don't have an epidemic of bait-and-switch blogs

I've seen a number of social network groups being sold for their audiences and then rebranded to sell questionable things. I've even seen something similar done to some YouTube channel I once subscribed to: its owner (new or not, can't really tell this time) changed its name/images/whatever, removed all the videos and started publishing things that I never wanted to be in my feed. Things will only get worse the moment YouTube allows to change videos under the same URL.

I'm led to believe this is also common on Reddit; someone (or a bot) will repost to karma farm, then the account with high karma is sold off. I'm not sure how much there is to gain from that since you don't see users' karma unless you specifically view their profile.

Reddit "trusts" accounts with high karma in various ways.

Scale and network effects.

I don't think it is different? I think even allowing edits to the video content would open up the door to replacing a video with something unrelated but retaining the views & popularity etc.

I think that's part of the problem. Does a new video, which may have nothing to do with the originial video, really deserve the views and popularity of the old video?

Agreed, YouTube shouldn't allow arbitrary re-upload. If they did, then 1) upload a popular song, 2) disable comments, 3) wait for it to get millions of views and tens of thousands of likes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XycBLF6kWuY), 4) re-upload the video to now be a product pitch for your startup, 5) show potential investors how many millions of people are enthusiastic for your product.

And if one's reaction is, "re-uploading a video should reset all views and likes to zero", then re-uploading now has little advantage over making a new video.

Also link rot.

The description is not visible by default and is not shown at all in embeds.

I have disabled annotations long, long time ago. I was tired being forced to click on those silly boxes to uncover the content beneath.

On the other hand I don't see why Google couldn't just disable adding new annotations but left old annotations in peace. Maybe there is some underlying technical reason why they don't want annotations.

Code debt and shrinking use. Considering it's only on desktop and only on old videos, I'd assume the number of uses of annotation per view is probably under 0.01% in terms of traffic, and I can also assume it adds quite a lot of complexity to their player code.

Personally, I think maybe they could flatten all annotations into a single non-interactable layer and keep that instead. That would require a lot less code and do most of the job it needs to.

I imagine it's for consistency. The fewer unused features they continue to support going forwards, the simpler it becomes to develop the websites, mobile apps, and set-top box experiences.

YouTube is already pretty fragmented as it is, with each device having a different experience. Since viewing is increasingly a mobile thing, and the mobile site sucks, I would be more than pleased to see some consistency coming across their platform.

> the simpler it becomes to develop the websites, mobile apps, and set-top box experiences

That's most limiting factor for such an hobby weekend side project of one lonely developer which we all know YouTube is.

tl;dr Google may have money and YouTube may be one of their main sites, but there's always more to development than "but c'mon, they can afford it" or "surely they have enough engineers".

I understand what you're saying but based on what we've heard from ex-Googlers about user interface/experience design within the company, that people who've not got the first idea about good design are thrust into the role of designing user interfaces and user-facing features, I think it's a minor miracle we have what we have already — and what we have isn't great.

Plus, look at the variety of users and devices on YouTube. From those who watch 5K video on 27" high-resolution monitors backed by grunty graphics and powerful processors, to cheap $29 Android phones that barely keep the battery from draining to zero within a couple of minutes just showing a 360p video, and all the devices in between.

Between Google's issues with user interface/experience design on a company level and the fact that YouTube needs to cater to so many different kinds of people and devices, there's clearly more than meets the eye when it comes to the hidden scale of YouTube.

Since Google basically prints money, I don't think money could be the issue. Since Google is overflowing with engineers, I don't think throwing more engineers at the problem would help. Rather, I think that removing annotations is a good sign that Google is trying to do something smarter: manage the scale of YouTube.

The removal of just one feature, like annotations, lifts a heavy burden from the main site team, the mobile site team, the mobile apps teams, and everything else. It brings platform consistency, meaning some actually new and innovative features can finally get some of that precious engineering time, rather than the inelegance of supporting what was always a janky feature that could only become jankier as devices became more diversified.

> Since Google basically prints money, I don't think money could be the issue. Since Google is overflowing with engineers, I don't think throwing more engineers at the problem would help.

That's why Google Reader is gone, I suppose. Google just couldn't save it, no matter how much money and engineers' time was spend on it. And we all know how much exactly it were.

> Rather, I think that removing annotations is a good sign that Google is trying to do something smarter: manage the scale of YouTube.

Consistently removing the features which is not popular among majority of users is not smart at all. That's the dumbest way to manage the scale actually.

Think of Google as an airship. Platforms and features have mass. They've done everything they can to rise without dumping platforms or features. Now they're shedding excess mass to continue rising.

This means streamlining platforms and trimming excess/old code.

I've seen 'code debt' and 'technical debt' mentioned more than a few times in this thread and I think these are why Google is so aggressive about dropping support for things. They don't have time, and the engineers don't want to be forced into someone else's pet project (face it, that's where a lot of these platforms and features come from).

So they cut their losses and rise.

> to continue rising

From the other thread, pretty usual recently

> I considered working at Google last year after a recruiter reached out to me, but their decision to backtrack on their promise in China changed my mind

Maybe it's not about rising anymore.

I get the feeling that Google and Alphabet as a whole is pretty broken on the inside. I will admit that even though I support what Google is doing to make YouTube's platform more scalable, they do plenty of other things to screw things up for not just themselves but loyal content makers and users — the suggestions algorithm, subscriptions that aren't really subscriptions, etc.

To borrow a famous quote, Google is like an ship with a hole in the bottom, leaking water, and they seem to be trying to get the ship pointed in the right direction.

Still, whilst the ship's not yet overrun, I can't blame the individual teams for trying to throw as much water back overboard as they can muster.

They already did that according to the article. Adding annotations was disabled somewhere in 2017.

You can't change your video after uploading for the same reason you can't change your submission on websites like Reddit after submitting it. It would be too easy to bait-and-switch. I can understand that it's frustrating for honest uploaders but that makes total sense to me.

In general people just mention that there's an updated video in the title or description and you can redirect yourself there if you want. A bit lo-tech but it works well in practice IMO.

> for the same reason you can't change your submission on websites like Reddit after submitting it

but you can edit posts on reddit...just not the title

You can't edit the link, only self posts

If I send a someone a video it should not be ambigious if we saw the same thing.

I'm sure there's no way that could be abused.

That would be disastrous for YouTube. Imagine embedding a video on your website only to find out later that it had been replaced with spam? So little gain for a huge abuse opportunity.

I think that it is great that they do not give the ability to replace the video. If I am linking a video that I watched in the past to someone I expect it to contain what I watched, not something entirely different. Same for upvotes, what if someone replaces a video with content that I find misleading and that I would not have up voted?

No way they would allow you to replace the video, it would open them up to all kinds of abuse and trolling.

even if at times google did replace their own videos.

Landlord privilege applies.

Your non-lousy product stewardship would let me replace the video file of a John Carmack tech talk with an Amway recruiting video?

Yes. Why not? If the 1st Video was your upload to begin with why shouldn't you be able to replace your video with a different Video?

This is a very useful feature for people since it would give creators the ability to fix errors in their videos without creating the confusion that happens when creators try to do this currently.

Every single time when I saw a reupload it had tons of comments saying something to the effect of "Didn't I see this before?" or "Didn't you upload this Yesterday?" and the creator commenting X times: "Sorry it is a reupload to fix Audio/Editing/Facts"

Can you then replace a John Carmack tech talk with a Amway recruiting video? Yes, but there was nothing stopping you right now from uploading that Amway video and simply calling it "John Carmack tech talk" anyways.

But now I can watch a correctly titled "John Carmack tech talk", send the link to a friend, and they'll wonder why I'm trying to recruit them to Amway.

Right now the system is so that I have sent links to friends and they replied: "Can't find it"

Both are minor things, but I am in favor of creators being in control over their videos. Especially since it would get used to correct accidental misinformation and things like that.

I just don't see much harm in the ability even if the video creator could completely switch content.

Elon Musk tweets: “Check out this guy’s video of a Tesla he saw at the racetrack.” GM pays the guy $100K to update the video to a GM ad.

Some are saying replacing video could be abused. What if they that came with Youtube resetting the views count ?

Video URLs always pointing to the same content is a critical guarantee for a service like Youtube.

Video Annotations were frequently used to update mistakes made within a video, such as when the producer simply got a date or statistic incorrect, as well as for providing a future citation or update regarding the content of the video.

I think it would be nice to see a middleground feature, to facilitate these cases, whilst not being as easy to abuse as video annotations were.

They could use the video description.

I'm going to take this number out of my ass but I'd say that only 1% of the people that watch a video will go read the full description unless there is a specific resource they are looking for(usually links)

Watching YT videos on Xbox or Chromecast makes looking at the descriptions impossible

You also can't view annotations on Xbox or Chromecast.

You're probably not too far off in that assessment. I find myself going to the description only if the video says there are links to follow in it, or if I really like the music and I want to see if they are credited (which is how I discovered the band Foreign Fields, watching the John Neeman Tools blacksmithing videos).

I either watch YouTube videos using the app on my phone or on my TV using my NVIDIA Shield. I don't see descriptions either way (or annotations, for that matter).

On the phone app, the description is dynamically loaded below the comments. I'm sure there's a less discoverable location, but I'd be hard pressed to identify it.

we will need a firefox extension that reads the description and overlays the annotations on the video at the appropriate time. otherwise it's impossible to do that for any serious video

Annotations are a quick and dirty fix that isn't really a fix at all.

It's really confusing if the voice in the video says one thing, and an annotation is displayed that says "this is not actually correct ..."

It would be much better if the video creator spent five minutes to actually fix the video and reupload it.

Aside from the other comments (which are all relevant), it's often not 'five minutes' to make a change like that - some of my (fairly simple) videos take longer than that just to render, aside from actually making the edit in the first place. Annotations offered a quick, easy and universal way to put on screen corrections in place,without loads of work and without losing view count, comments or fragmentation. That's no longer available.

Creators are strongly disincentivised from doing that since deleting the old version would throw away their views etc for that video. It would also delete comments, and while this is often no great loss, I do run across useful or interesting YouTube comments sometimes.

They don't need to delete the old version, they can link between new/old version in the description.

That sounds like a solution I'd personally never even notice. Most of the devices I consume youtube videos on either do not show the video description at all (TV) or actively disencourage reading it (the official Android app currently requires one or two clicks to even see it).

In addition to that, re-uploads are annoying enough as is because content creators constantly need to upload old content due to changes in Youtubes policies or enforcement. New revisions for any minor mistake instead of an overlay would properly ruin the subscription page imho.

This still fragments your audience.

This would be far more confusing than an annotation.

> It's really confusing if the voice in the video says one thing, and an annotation is displayed that says "this is not actually correct ..."

I think you would have to try quite hard to be confused about something like this. Also, frequently used for self deprecation comedy.

They would have to upload it to a new URL and so none of the links to the old video would see it anyway, which is kind of useless.

I always found this satisfying in a strange way, especially on technical videos. Perhaps it raises my confidence even more on a video if time is taken to correct a statement inline with the time it is being said.

so google prefers to throw that content away? that is entirely disrespectful of their content creators. I bet a massive number of youtubers can no longer edit their videos because they no longer have them.

Then you loose/cut off all previous comments/views/likes

That would reset the views and comments.

Typical Google, very little respect for long-term user investment in their products. Lots of annotations are annoying but I often see them effectively used to correct inaccuracies in instructional & educational videos. Will be sad to see those go.

That's not exactly Google's problem. That's '80-20 economy' for you, AKA dictate of majority. If some feature is too hard for 80 per cent of users, tough luck for 20 per cent who used it.

The typical Google is the decision to delete annotations instead of just turn it off by default.

But annotations aren't hard to use, just the opposite. Google is removing them because they don't really work that well on mobile.

They have dedicated YouTube mobile app to make it work really well on mobile, you know. With dedicated team of developers.

Not to mention they also have dedicated entire mobile ecosystem and operating system as well as significant leverage even in other phone ecosystems

mobile first is pretty nasty, but it's probably unavoidable business wise since smartphones are the new mainstream

'Mobile first' is not equal to 'remove all the features and add white fields and huge padding everywhere'. E.g. WeChat is not only 'mobile first', but second, third and fourth, from the day one. And from the day one all the WeChat team do is adding new features, not removing old ones.

you got the idea, when a company allocates resources for mobile, the rest gets less, ultimately that's N platforms to support, and the less platforms, the less costs.

It's not because of "mobile first", which could just as easily manifest as adding the feature to mobile ASAP.

Agreed. Youtube is always traveling further away from being a technology that benefits us into something that only entertains.

You can find 10 year old cat videos on YT. Video hosting isn't cheap, yet YT never deletes videos even if nobody watches them. Its a free service.

Honestly Google is better than most digital file lockers out there.

I cant wrap my head around how good youtube is keeping, serving, and querying massive amounts of video data so well. I don't know how a site like youtube is even possible.

I wonder if anyone has done the math at google if they can keep up. Each video is between 100MB to tens of GB I imagine, especially high-def ones. As more people come into the internet age, and more people start creating video content, the number of publishers, times the average number of videos a publisher makes over a lifetime, etc..

Same with Vimeo - the numbers have got to be astronomically slanted in favor of a cataclysmic loss of data at some point, or simply a policy of deleting things 10 years old (deemed no longer relevant). The internet archive is going to have its hands full if it's trying to back this thing up.

I mean to some degree videos that don't show up in search results and aren't linked anywhere are basically none existant anyway. I don't know why a site like youtube still serves videos like that. Youtube could remove at least 20% of their videos and not affect almost any users, but I don't know if it will ever come to that. The math is just absurd considering the amount of storage that youtube will have to serve 10, 20 years from now.

> but I often see them effectively used to correct inaccuracies

Do you? Considering it was removed as a feature 2 years ago? I've not seen any in a long time. Yes if you go back and watch old videos, but as time pass, the % of people watching such videos will keep on shrinking, especially if you add the fact that views are increasingly moving to mobile anyway.

The code complexity on the player will stop being worth it at some point, just to serve 0.01% of views on annotated videos.

Yes, I saw one just last week (No, I don't watch much youtube :-). Some people are putting up instructions how to do things that isn't really done any more, to try to save the knowledge for later generations. One can argue how well a choice of youtube is for that but the fact is that many have no other way of getting that information out to a wider audience. I think it's a great way to catch the few that might be interested before the knowledge dies out. Trying to find anyone interested in your little village is usually very hard.

I've had annotations switched off for years now, they're almost always completely irrelevant to the content I'm trying to watch, and often just get in the way.

It's unfortunate, but the reason why I turned them off is because of a large number of uploaders who abused annotations with stupid annoying messages that added nothing to the video.

It sucks for creators who legitimately used it as corrections for videos but all in all, I think doing away with annotations is a net positive for the user experience.

>the reason why I turned them off is because of a large number of uploaders who abused annotations with stupid annoying messages that added nothing to the video.

Same here, 99% of the time it's just a big annotation that covers the whole video that says something like "click here for my latest viral video" or "get [brand name] shoes 50% off" and so on.

Same here. Just like ads people abused them so I turned them off.

Ditto. I can't remember a single instance I needed to turn them on for any reason.

Trying to remember how many of these I have seen via places like coursera, freecodecamp videos, edx, udemy and the like.

Again google goes after spam with a bazooka instead of a scalpel - collateral damage - meh. The spammers will just edit the video before uploading and those who don't won't get the annotations.

But I get it, at that scale it's probably impossible to one by one surgery the issue.

Perhaps a link to offer information to see annotation that were removed (and the time stamp) in case important info conveyed is being removed?

Goodbye all the "Choose your own adventure" videos on YouTube as most of them, if not all, will no longer work properly :(

I (or someone) needs to archive all those annotations links on those games, since most of these old channels that did such videos aren't active anymore.

Then would be better to archive the videos too, because the next logical step for YouTube would be delete all the old low profile videos.

Is there a good listing of these, or could we crowdsource one quiclky to make sure they are at Internet Archive?

It's really a shame for videos where annotations were used interactively for menus as timestamp jumps or jumping around different videos with "alternative endings" etc. So much effort seems to have gone into them :<

Random example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4wgFn8WW5c

annotations were a highly versatile tool in the right hands. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yTHYkauWUg&t=0s&list=PLf45o... i think too many people just experienced poorly used ones that were more akin to a popup ad.

Good riddance. As a user, I hate annotations. I'm sure there are good uses, but in the use cases I see them, they're just use for spamming or distracting from the video.

Still, I see lots of new videos with annotations. Is it really impossible to create new annotations?

that is a crime. lots of lectures and tutorial videos have corrrections that fix the errors in the video. good luck with the new 'fake news' now. One wonders why is youtube destroying its own collection like that? They are weaving a string of failures so massive that only anti-monopoly action might save the poor makers now.

This is absolutely bizarre. Why can't they just leave the option to view old ones there, but disallow new annotations? Secondly, why are they using click-through rate as a metric to gauge usefulness? In instructional videos annotations tend to be informative rather than something to click on.

Now if only end cards showed at the end and not before it’s about to end.

> "on average they close 12 annotations before they click on one of them."

Yes, and that is only by accident because I couldn't fucking click on the X because you put it on the corner on purpose. I'm really glad they will go away!

Are people clicking on ads/end screen survey things/anything on a video that is not play/pause with any greater frequency than this?


Although it has a valid use case, most of the time I interact with annotations is when trying to pause a video and ending up being redirected to some other video or a 3rd party site.

is this annotations or links? I thought links has been already removed for quite some time. Annotations has been very useful especially for adding factual corrections after the live stream

> As adoption of end screens and cards has grown, the use of annotations has decreased by over 70%. For this reason, we discontinued annotations editor in May 2017.

> This means you can no longer add new or edit existing annotations, only delete them. Existing annotations still show when using a desktop computer.

I guess everyone's known about this for a while. I guess it's a shitty move for the users, surely most channels have been sufficiently warned since they started removing the feature so long ago

As a user I really cannot remember a case that annotation helped me...mostly just ads and spams..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I&t=50 Axis of Awesome - 4 Four Chord Song (with song titles)

Some MST3K videos have joke/reference explanations as annotations.

This video has a UI built using annotations.


They are buttons that fwd or rwd the video to a point where the white strobe flash matches the text on the button, doh, I mean annotation.

Note: Only works on desktop YouTube.

Hmm... OK... I guess I will add that feature to my video platform that adds features to YouTube videos. Do we have a way to extract annotations via API? Probably...

So, it's totally impossible to simply retrieve the contents of the annotations now??

What good is a "delete" button if the data is inaccessible otherwise and will just be deleted later anyway‽

Please, if anyone knows how to just download the text, I'd appreciate it. I'm one of those people who used annotations to add corrections and clarifications to educational videos…

Good riddance. Though interesting tidbit

>> With 60% of YouTube’s watch time now on mobile

That surprised me at first, though upon reflection, it aligns with my own use I think.

It doesn't surprise me and doesn't align with my own use.

But yeah, mobile devices are not really computers for doing things. They are screens for consuming media. It makes sense for people to use them this way.

It also makes sense for google to have trouble with them because they are all very crappy at being computers.

It's just a shame google has decided to target such a gimped platform primarily. A shame, but inevitable.

It doesn't surprise me at all tbh, in fact I expected that would have been a lot higher. How many kids are watching YouTube on mommy's iPad throughout the day? I know my roommate likes to have video guides and such playing when he's gaming, it's just easier to have his phone propped up than mucking around switching between the game and a web browser. Recipes, DIY projects, tutorials, I can think of a million use cases where YouTube is just more viable and easier to access on a mobile device than a laptop or desktop

This doesn't mean 60% of watch time is from people (actively) "on their smartphones or tablets". I frequently use YouTube on my phone while working on the laptop. I don't think I'm the only one.

Geez, if 1% of my usage is on mobile, I'd be surprised. Definitely all my viewing is done on the desktop while I work on things.

It's probably more now - that stat was from years ago when they first turned off the ability to add annotations.

Instead of making annotations useful on mobile UI.

Now that I think about it though, due to fine size minimums, the placement would probably be messed up even if it worked. I imagine that's part of the problem with just adapting it.

If I can shrink a video to 400 pixels wide on desktop, then there's plenty of space on mobile.

I'm surprised it's not higher than that considering how common mobiles and tablets are.

As someone who’s small consumption of YouTube is its community of horror ARGs, this is going to bust a handful of them. Sad.

Uhm, I can see what they're aiming at. But there a lot of legacy videos which have useful information in the annotations. I think 80% of the car repair videos I watched the last month had annotations with nice details, and I can see this information going down into the limbo.

So, is there any tool to dump these annotations for later use?

youtube-dl will archive annotations to XML with the --write-annotations flag.


Thank you. I hate the annotations, they are so badly misused. It sounded like a good feature in theory though.

I'm quite pleased to hear that they're being removed as they do my head in. If I owned videos that relied on the annotations and I wasn't in a position to re-record them then I'd probably screen record the videos with the annotations switched on and re-upload them.

ContentID would flag you for self-plagiarism (pun intended) and disable further uploads.

I believe ContentID only detects videos registered in their database by partners through what they call the "CMS".

Basically you upload your videos, and meta data for what they call reference files. Which I doubt are publically viewable.


Plus if it automatically matched videos already uploaded would cause a mess because so many channels use royalty free music or content library... So then everyone would claim they own music they don't really own.

All content on the YouTube content library has already been fingerprinted.

Thank god! I know this was intended to be a useful feature, but it's caused me nothing but spam over the years. So glad it's gone!

I agree - pretty much the first thing I do when starting a YT video is disable annotations.

only on very low quality videos or pirated music videos.

Good riddance. 99% of the time annotations were spam as far as I know. Using them for actual annotations seemed to be a rarity.

As someone who has disabled them on the desktop and was never able to view them on the chromecast, I understand why would they get rid of them. Often they were used to push adverts or other non-sense rather than error correction or anything useful.

Which means you can't add outbound external links on top of YouTube videos from now on.

I was wondering why they hadn't implemented video annotations for their mobile apps yet, I guess I have an answer now lol

Fuck Google by the way, I know of many videos that will lose their meaning without annotations.

Chad's garage is becoming really unprofessional...


Difference though is that although video creators are not paying youtube, they are the reason people bother to show up and watch ads there in the first place.

Of course this shifts incentives a lot but it gives you some ground to be legitimately angry.

Right, YouTube buys and sells human attention. I imagine they did a cost/benefit analysis and feel like this change is a net positive for that business.

If users were paying for video hosting with specific features, then legacy support would likely be a higher priority. Different customer, different concerns.

That's not really a matching analogy. YouTube doesn't just store videos, YouTube promotes videos via its algorithm and it monetises them, giving you a kickback on any ads you let it place on them. It's not in the "video hosting business", yes, but that doesn't mean it's not a business.

Content creators aren't the customer, they're more like contractors.

Content creators are contractees. YouTube is in the video hosting business, advertisement is an (rather profitable) enablement over that.

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