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YouTube might terminate your access if not profitable for Google
133 points by hashier on Nov 11, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 91 comments

> Terminations by YouTube for Service Changes > > YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.

This might be actually a good thing. Say that you are a user, which uploads a LOT of large videos that almost nobody is watching, apart from your small cabal, and you restrict ads on them (AFAIK was possible in past, not sure if it is now). In such case, you get quite good service for free, and you cost YouTube quite a lot of money for storage.

I see that YouTube have following options: 1.) Show more ads elsewhere (so other people will pay the price). 2.) Terminate your account. 3.) Charge you money.

From those, actually 2/3 seems like the best (and being able to do #2 will give them leverage for you to pay #3).

I'm worried that while this sounds plausible at first it also seems to run directly counter to how many of the most popular channels on YouTube got their start. Most times when I've been a subscriber to a channel before it took off, the channel always begins with a small, tight knit group of fans that appreciate the content being created. The channel owner may not even run ads and sometimes doesn't have the sense or skill to edit their videos down. The channel will exist in this state for quite some time before it begins to attract more attention. How many promising channels are going to be strangled in the cradle by a poorly calibrated algorithm that thinks they aren't commercially viable?

I'm afraid that if a policy to terminate channels early and often is pursued then we will end up with a YouTube entirely populated by channels that just seek to maximize engagement at the expense of quality. This is sad but YouTube has been on the decline for some time, there is still a lot good about it but they seem to be intent on transforming it into the antithesis of what made it successful in the first place. Same old story.

> we will end up with a YouTube entirely populated by channels that just seek to maximize engagement at the expense of quality

Just like Medium did (and does). This will probably kill the plataform success...

How is this a good thing? Obscure and/or old archive footage which usually doesnt get that many views is one of the best things about YT.

I’d argue that YouTube is a for-profit business. They have every right, within legal bounds, to do whatever makes economic sense to them.

If you want an archive, go with archive.org. But even then, nothing is free. If somebody thinks a footage deserves to be archived and preserved, somebody needs to pay for the cost anyhow, e.g. via donations.

As a user I am not interested in YT's profits. However, what I am interested in is being able to access useful content. For all intents and purposes, YT has become the central place for people to upload such footage and of course the prospect of its removal is worrying to me. There are vast amounts of indispensable knowledge and information uploaded to YT that is far from being deemed as profitable to Google and as such are under risk of being permanently and irreversibly lost. Hence my confusion at the OP's description of the situation as "a good thing".

> As a user I am not interested in YT's profits. However, what I am interested in is being able to access useful content.

Choose two: a) free* b) reliable c) universal

* not counting ads.

Youtube being a monopoly on videos, is a de facto public service.

There are alternatives. We just need to use them if we care a little about it. e.g. your own web server (e.g. blog) / p2p network (e.g. zeronet / dtube) or even 'the modern social network' (e.g. facebook / twitter)

> Obscure and/or old archive footage which usually doesnt get that many views is one of the best things about YT.

and one of the costs youtube bears, since by definition they can't make money off those videos, but has to pay for storage.

I dont know if there's a solution - perhaps non-commercialized accounts can't upload more than X gigabytes of vidoes, or be forced to have ads? Or you (the channel owner) pay for the storage?

> and one of the costs youtube bears, since by definition they can't make money off those videos, but has to pay for storage.

Sure they can make money off them - they just need to be creative. For example, you can have a category of 'archived videos' to which you need to pay to be able to access. The payment is for the service, not for the video so it does not matter what are the specific settings on a specific video.

Even consumer SSD's are around 10 cents per gigabyte of storage. These videos wouldn't get many views, but they don't need a ton to recoup storage costs.

Indeed - going further, the long tail is the only advantage centralized systems hold over decentralized ones. The day YouTube only shows the top 99% of content is the day we can all switch to BitTorrent and not lose a thing.

I doubt these kind of users cost YouTube all that much. What I guess they are worried about are people who upload controversial videos who then run adverts alongside them, and those advertisers get very upset about the content that they are being associated with. That's the kind of thing that can really cost YouTube money & effort (they might have to have a real person take phone calls from the annoyed advertiser, shock horror!)

I think as everywhere 90% of money Youtube gets from 3-10% of content. That looks like cost optimization. They spend money for requests (displaying video) and storage. Even if storage is 30% of their cost and they can remove 10% of biggest never displayed videos they can save 3% of overall costs, which is huge improvement on very concurrent market. Video ads right now the most expensive and most fast growing market.

I doubt storage of extremely unpopular videos is a significant cost for YT. Their revenue is ~25 billion per year. Assuming with redundancy they are paying say ~1,000$ per 8TB added per year. People are uploading 500+ Hours of video every minute. Assuming that’s mostly 30fps 4K video we are talking 50 Mbps * 60 * 500 * 1 year ~= 0.75 Billion per year or ~3.3% of revenues. (50 Mbps seems like an overly generous average.)

Not free, but cutting off say 10% of uploads to save ~0.3% is not going to help their bottom line much as they would lose out on some viral videos and future stars in the process. Plus, there are minimum view requirements before revenue sharing. Worse they could easily lose their spot as the default location for video uploads long term.

I think that kind of policy would have a bad effect on YouTube usage. Not everyone uses it to upload videos that they want to go viral or get lots of hits. Plenty of users are storing videos on there that are just for family and friends. The users who are uploading this other ~90% of 'small time' content aren't going to keep using a site that would routinely delete their content because it wasn't popular enough.

It's also an arbitrary hammer to censor videos regardless of size etc...

Vs other replies, seems it's intended more toward genuinely wasteful content, like "10 hours of stupid on repeat".

It compresses very well

Where should people go for how-to videos on repairing x? Usually I've found what I needed on youtube, and while very helpful for my need, the popularity of such videos (often long for instructional purposes) is in the hundreds or low thousands of views.

I would argue that channels like Jim Sterling are a bigger problem. He's a pundent who criticizes the AAA gaming industry, and whose content is unmonetizable from Google's perspective.

Yet his videos get tens and hundreds of thousands of views (occasionally even millions), and are 15-20 minutes each (even Jim Sterling must play to the algorithm). 3-4 of such videos every week have to represent the very definition of commercially not viable for Google.

Option #4 take a small dent to their profits.

I think YouTube as a whole might already be a not-so-small dent on their profits.

I skip all YouTube adverts that are longer than 15 seconds and never click on any advert when searching. I am probably considered "commercially unviable", even though a company I own 100%, pays Google thousands of dollars every year to use Google Suite and Google Cloud Engine. I don't see a reason for my personal account to be commercially viable.

Google uses CPM or even kind of vCPM model for videos mostly AFAIK, so if you see more than 5 seconds of the ad, advertisers will pay for it.

Pretty sure it's 30 seconds before it's counted as an add view. Those un-skippable under 30 seconds are always paid.

When I encounter an unskippable advert, I refresh the browser or report it as inapprporiate. I don't want to be forced to watch an advert.

Then I am a profitable user then.

Keep in mind that not all advertisement is made with the intent of the ad watcher clicking the ad and purchasing a product immediately. The larger brands especially do a lot of share of mind advertising where the goal is simply to make you aware of / remind you of the brand.

Then they must make their adverts smaller. 5-10 seconds is enough to remind me there is a soft drink brand called Coca-Cola.

I haven't watched an ad on youtube in like ten years. They are probably very upset at me.

Unfortunately I watch YouTube on a smart TV. I have no way of blocking their adverts. I can only wait for skip button and skip.

Would something like pihole not work in this case?

Let me try that and see how it goes. Let me go and install it.

Pihole does not block YouTube Ads. You can use Smart Youtube TV to watch ad free YouTube on your TV.


Thank you lavios. I will install it later.

Well the current ToS say:

> YouTube reserves the right to discontinue any aspect of the Service at any time.

So this, the notification, and the ability to appeal seem like significant improvements.

This is a weird rule for people uploading videos.

You can't just decide to show ads on your videos. Youtube requires you to meet certain guidelines. The last time I checked you need 4,000+ hours of view time each year and 1,000+ subscribers to be allowed to show ads on your videos.

That means smaller channels who have limited audiences would have no way to avoid termination because Youtube is blocking themselves from generating revenue from that channel due to their own monetization rules.

That rule only applies for creators looking to be paid for monetising their channel. YouTube will still play ads and earn revenue on views of smaller channels. My channel for example only has about 50 subscribers but displays ads on certain videos that contain copyrighted music.

It's very likely that if the said small channels are indeed too small to be allowed to monetize, then they would fall under the not profitable accounts even if they were allowed to monetize.

> It's very likely that if the said small channels are indeed too small to be allowed to monetize, then they would fall under the not profitable accounts even if they were allowed to monetize.

It might take 6 months or even a year+ of dedicated uploading to meet those guidelines for most content (unless it's a really popular / trending niche like a new game, etc.).

If Youtube starts banning those accounts then they are effectively not allowing anyone else to join their platform because they would be terminated before they have a chance to get popular enough to enable ads so that Youtube can make money.

>If Youtube starts banning those accounts then they are effectively not allowing anyone else to join their platform

That's a huge if - one that Youtube probably is not going to enforce on new customers. The same principle applies to most businesses I know - a new account/client has X months to be profitable until they get dropped.

On the flip side, i've often stumbled (in the days where I was parsing youtube for side projects) on projects with hours long videos with 3 views - for years. My best guess would be that those accounts / uploads are what youtube is targeting, not preventing their new account sign up / new DAU drop.

So let's say you have an old YT account that you don't use anymore tied you your gmail account and there a few dozen family holiday videos you uploaded years ago to show friends (which was kinda the original purpose of YouTube) and completely forgot about. Does this mean that one day you might wake up with access to your gmail completely blocked off because an algorithm on YT decided that your channel is not profitable?

I think they're considered to be isolated services. You can have a gmail account without having a youtube account.

Not entirely true. Take the recent controversy around YouTuber Markiplier having users' accounts shut down (including both YouTube and Gmail) for spamming his YouTube livestream chatroom.[1]

I also did a quick search and it's been a while since both Gmail/Google accounts and YouTube accounts are tied to one another.[2][3]

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/markiplier-youtube-fans-heis...

[2] https://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/1692/how-do-i-un...

[3] https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/69961?hl=en

Wow. So not good.

Presumably this is to prevent silly abuse, like me uploading terabytes of steganographic videos that no-one ever watches except my backup service?

Having said that, obviously YT can ban you for any reason whatsoever.

Good, maybe this signals the leveling off and impending implosion of ad revenue. Internet 3.0 cannot arrive fast enough...

I am tired of all these giant sites de facto controlling information repositories and communications channels because they have ad-sponsored inertia.

What do you envision internet 3.0 to look like? Some kind of shared, distributed blockchain thing with no centralized repositories and control, with micro-revenue flowing to each provider?

More likely a completely closed off, proprietary protocol garden that only authorized partners can post content on. Costs 10$ per month, and you get clean, sanitary and non-controvertial, commercial content.

Doesn’t this just mean that if YouTube becomes commercial non-viable they’re not obligated to continue providing a service?

Of course they are not obligated to provide a service.

As much as I dislike this, they are a business. Running servers and streams is not free.

The great conondrum of software...

In that case, maybe, don't advertise it as free.

YouTube is not advertised as free, at least nowhere I could find.

It is considered free by lot of uninformed users. Lot of Youtubers, both budding and established, don't know the real consequence of being at the mercy of Google, that they could be thrown out of YT at the whims of Google.

And yet, Google gets very good prices for servers from OEMs. Instead of terminating people without saying a word, and then stonewalling them, they could've just demanded payment for the service.

Who are you talking about? This policy isn't even in effect yet. The accounts they have terminated were for different reasons, and payment wouldn't have fixed it.

They build their own servers. They are an OEM.

No, they buy them from Quanta and Supermicro

YouTube Premium allows you to pay for the service.

What does termination of your account mean? Are we talking losing your email/gmail account?

If the Markiplier situation is any indication, then your entire google account, gmail and all.


So in other words it's the Google counterpart of Amazon banning users for too many returns but without disclosing how some algorithm determines what is too many.

I can see some unfortunate users learning the hard way why reliance on these huge cloud services can backfire. And some people may just create a lot of secondary accounts so they can continue uploading whatever they want, so I'm not sure Google will actually get improvements from this TOS.

Seems unlikely that the two situations are comparable. Though I'm sure YouTube will keep banning people for no discernable reason, but internally they're likely marked as "spammers" or some other unwanted group. The unprofitable will probably just have their videos deleted.

Contrary to what some people seem to believe I really don't think this has anything to do with trying to ban people who use adblock or the like. YouTube actively allows for adblock, if they didn't want people blocking ads they could just splice the ads directly into the video and stop transmission of the actual video content.

This is most likely just a random change that gets blown way out of proportion, it's not like Google hasn't banned people for any BS reason they could come up with before.

I don't even know what google or youtube ads look like anymore.

Maybe I can finally ditch Google once and for all if they just terminate my account for me.

Is this a recent change? I'm not sure if it's just another 'firing your customers' clause or something more sinister.

These are the new ToS that will take effect on December 10th.

I cannot find any related clause in the current ToS https://www.youtube.com/static?template=terms

It's funny as I was just thinking that this makes sense for YouTube in my case. I am using it mostly via mobile browser and current page refresh behavior removes advertising from the video. I do it all the time.

I am expecting something like "pay for subscription or else" feature proposal in the observable future.

I thought basically most channels are duds?

YouTube and all other centralized/walled (hosted) services of course has their own rights to terminate their services in any ways they prefer to. And the internet users also always have lots of alternatives.

e.g. using their own web server, p2p network or other centralized/walled (hosted) services.

I have a family YouTube Premium sub. I think advertising is a horrible monetization model. I also heard that a YouTube Premium view counts something like 6-7 times in terms of monetization for content creators as compared to an ad monetized view.

I've seen 3 different interpretations of the same line now:

- "If the service becomes too expensive for us, we'll close shop"

- "If you block ads, we'll close your account"

- "If you upload too much, we'll close your account"

Let's hope that if I view too many video's as a YouTube Premium subscriber I will at some point get ads. And not that all my Google accounts get terminated.

That's just standard "any reason, no reason, or all these explicit reasons we've thought of" legalese.

How does one become "no longer commercially viable" for youtube?

I've seen channels with 1000's of videos automatically uploaded by someone's dashcam, all with 0 views. I'm certain there are more cases where a user uploads tons of videos that never get watched.


This doesn't make sense. Anyone can watch YouTube without an account. So even if they terminated a consumer using adblocking it wouldn't change anything for Google. This is likely targeted at users publishing a lot of low quality video that get few views. If they enforce this my guess is we see backlash around free speech and the like. This seems like a perfect way for Google to curate "good" content in the eyes of themselves and potentially at the downside of people speaking out against Google, their products or videos promoting a competitive alternative. Google could deem things "not commercially viable" for almost any reason. It appears to have the advantage of being a perfect scapegoat.

> This doesn't make sense. Anyone can watch YouTube without an account. So even if they terminated a consumer using adblocking it wouldn't change anything for Google.

there are means to identify (and block) unique users without them needing to have an account. Heck, there's even means to identify the usage of an ad-blocker and/or youtube-dl and to refuse to provide the video for such cases.

I see the point but that's a cat and mouse game. Google would invest far more resources to block those users than it was worth.

Yes. But if they deal with the low-hanging fruits, this change on TOS means that they have covered their asses when the banned people start complaining

like manifest V3

Does it matter though ? You don't need an account to watch video afaik.

No. Not now. But that could change.

I don't think this will change. Yes, they already require an account for the YT app. But if they block access altogether without an account then they also break all youtube links for unregistered users, motivating people to find alternatives for sharing accessible video links online. I doubt Google wants to take that risk.

I hope it won't change. But they can make watching without an account less desirable; less bandwidth, more ads, no access to newly uploaded videos, first 30s. free, etc.

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