YouTube has been testing out a new option to let users sort their subscription feeds in an algorithm-fed, non-chronological order — and the move has many creators up in arms.
YouTube has actually been running the test with a small number of users since February 2018. The Google-owned video service publicly acknowledged the test in a tweet from the Team YouTube account late Tuesday evening, in response to a user’s complaint that videos weren’t showing up chronologically.
“We find that some viewers are able to more easily find the videos they want to watch when we order the subs feed in a personalized order vs always showing most recent video first,” the Team YouTube post said.
Reaction from the YouTube community has been overwhelmingly negative. Grace Helbig, a popular YouTube comedy creator, tweeted simply, “Please don’t do this,” in response to the Team YouTube post.
Colleen Ballinger, the creator behind YouTube’s Miranda Sings awkward woman-child, also expressed strong concern. “I don’t see a single positive response to this announcement,” she wrote in a tweet. “Please reconsider. This will really hurt your content creators!!!!”
Seán McLoughlin, the video-game vlogger known as Jacksepticeye online, noted in response to the news, “People use the subscription tab to mainly avoid this sort of algorithmic behaviour on the platform. Please keep that to the home page and recommendations.”
The concern among YouTubers is that their view counts and user engagement could drop, if people see their subscription feeds in a non-chronological layout.
Responding to a request for more information, a YouTube rep said, “With more videos coming to YouTube every minute we’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch and share the videos that matter most to them.”
The rep continued, “This is one of many small experiments we run all the time on YouTube. We use both quantitative data as well as user and creator feedback to make decisions on which features to launch.”
YouTube emphasized that in the test, users still can choose which view they want to see. In addition, according to YouTube, all videos from a user’s subscriptions will still appear in feed.
The backlash calls to mind a similar change that Facebook’s Instagram made in 2016, when it switched users’ feeds en masse from chronological to algorithmically sorted presentation. That led to a massive outcry from Instagrammers, and 343,000 people signed a Change.org petition demanding Instagram keep the chronological ordering. Of course, Instagram didn’t revert to the old design, and it has continued to amass users.