Google has integrated its Google+ social network into YouTube and now requires a profile before being able to comment on the video service. This move has since come under fire, even from one of the video sharing site’s co-founders.
YouTube is certainly a new media sensation. After gaining traction as a video sharing service in 2005, it had become one of Google’s first billion-dollar acquisitions. YouTube has evolved since its early days as a social sharing service. Now, it offers monetization and official music video channels. The service now has 1 billion active users per month, and 100 hours of video uploaded every minute, according to official statistics.
Comments add to the interactivity of YouTube, and the service has since experimented with several improvements, such as video responses. The latest update is meant to improve the quality of comment threads (which are admittedly problematic, due to the one-off nature of comments and responses). Google is now integrating its social network, Google+, into YouTube comments, and requires users to have an account before being able to respond to videos.
With Google+ integration, comments are no longer arranged by chronology by default, but by relevance, which takes into account a user’s Google+ connections, the number of +1 votes on that comment, and contributions by the video owner. The aim here is for YouTube comments to “become conversations that matter to you.”
In addition, YouTube comments can be now set to private, and video owners can now moderate comments before these are published, block certain keywords, auto-approve comments from certain users.
Not everyone is comfortable with this update, however. For instance, Jawed Kareem, one of the original founders of YouTube, has criticized the move. “Why the f*** do I need a Google+ account to comment on a video?” he supposedly wrote on his YouTube profile. Additionally, Forbes contributor Paul Tassi has cast doubts whether forcing readers or viewers to use their real names — whether through Google+ or through Facebook-based commenting systems — will improve the quality of conversations online.
At the very least, the move has been considered a “cheap way to get even more people to sign up for Google Plus when they wouldn’t have voluntarily done so otherwise.” Google’s social network is not exactly performing well, compared with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and the search company has attempted to improve engagement by tying it closely to Google services like Gmail, Google Play, and now YouTube. “There’s no avoiding Google+” wrote Amir Efrati on the Wall Street Journal earlier this year.