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The Future of YouTube

If you’re a YouTuber 📺, or even just use the platform, you’re probably aware of some of the controversy that’s been stirring over the past few years.

YouTube has recently been affected by a lot of negativity, ranging from toxic comments 💬 to fake news 📰 altering election results and privacy breaches that have compromised millions of users’ personal information.

The reality is, YouTube’s users are getting fed up with having to sacrifice their and their children’s information. As a result, new #laws like COPPA and the CCPA have been arising.

I’m sure all of these issues have led you to the conclusion that something has to change – and honestly, YouTube has been sending us clues 🔍 that that’s true for a while now.

YouTube’s clues

YouTube’s actions over the past few years undeniably point to serious changes on the site. Just to name a few of these actions, YouTube has:

❌ Reduced 📉 AdSense revenue 

❌ Removed conspiracy and political videos 

❌ Removed comments from an entire segment of the platform

❌ Demonetized all kids 👶 content 

In order to consider what these changes really mean for YouTube, we must first understand how the platform makes its money 💰.

The profits

Upon its creation in April of 2005, YouTube was intended for use as a general video #sharing site. At the time, people were just beginning to record footage 📹 on their cameras and mobile devices, but they had nowhere to put them!

YouTube solved this problem by allowing people to share their videos with family and friends; however, the revenue model at the time was unclear. 

In fact, the creators didn’t know if they’d make money from the platform at all!

This all changed in September of 2005, when Nike posted an ad on YouTube that acquired one million views 👀. 

Once they recognized how quickly YouTube was gaining 📈 popularity, the founders began posting advertisements of their own on the site – until 2006, when Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion 😳. 

Everyone thought Google was crazy for investing so much cash 💵 into a video sharing site, but in the summer of 2007, Google began incorporating ads into the content users posted. 

Then, everything changed.

A few months later, in December of 2007, Google initiated their partnership program for users. Now, content creators and YouTube were partners; they each shared revenue generated by the videos, and AdSense has been a staple ever since.

The AdSense deal 🤝

Currently, the revenue share between creators and YouTube is 55%/45%, respectively. 

AdSense is great for creators because it helps them earn money to invest in more equipment 📽️. Additionally, creators don’t have to worry too much about #marketing because the YouTube #algorithm does it for them!

However, the problem with the ad revenue model is that it adds friction to the user experience. ❗

Unless you’re paying 💲 for YouTube red, you have to get past ads in order to reach your desired content.  

Unfortunately for YouTube, audiences are becoming accustomed to subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, with which they pay to see specific content without ads.

In fact, the popularity of subscription services demonstrates pretty clearly that #consumers would rather pay for a service sans ads than use a free service with ads.

The way YouTube sponsorship works now, the ad revenue model records users’ clicks 🖱️ and viewing history and then sends this information to Google to personalize ads. 

By forcing viewers to watch ads they may or may not want to see, YouTube is increasingly frustrating and annoying its users.

The potential fix 🔧

YouTube has a problem to solve here: 

How does it lessen viewers’ negative attitude towards delays and unwanted ads while simultaneously honoring their wishes to give up less personal information? 

If you ask me, I foresee YouTube switching to a selection-only interface.

In other words, I believe YouTube will soon allow users to self-curate their videos. This would mean no more discovery  tools, suggested videos, homepage 🏠, or trending 📈. 

With this interface, viewers would decide what they want to see on the platform while sacrificing the opportunity to discover new videos.

A selection-only interface has several potential benefits:

👍 Parents would have the ability to limit exactly what their children watch 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦.

👍 Viewers would only see what they want to see.

👍 Privacy protection would improve.

👍 Users would have the ability to block content from untrusted #sources, which could have a huge impact on the reduction of fake news.

However, like everything else in life, there are definitely downsides to this type of interface as well: 

👎 The ad revenue model would fail if the majority of YouTube’s content was unavailable to its users.

👎 Creators would have trouble growing their audience 👥 with a lack of discoverability.

👎 Users would be confined to their intellectual comfort zone since the ability to learn new and unexpected information would no longer exist.

For example, if a conservatist wants to only get his information from Fox News, in a selection-only interface, this would be possible. 

However, this would stop him from being exposed to alternative viewpoints which would hopefully give him a fuller image and understanding of various issues.

👎 The negative hate speech 🗯️ and bigotry that turns off so many users could be reduced, but would with certainty not be eliminated.

Another change

The negativity that spreads rapidly through the YouTube comment sections 🗣️ is a huge issue for viewers, and a selection-only interface would not solve this problem.

As a result, I foresee an even bigger change coming to the platform: an account verification system.

Let me explain.

Currently, one of the greatest benefits of YouTube is the availability of open discourse. 

While YouTube does have policies outlined in the safety section of their website, it’s difficult to constantly monitor the rapid influx of comments and videos. As a result, people can almost always say anything they please.

This loose enforcement on YouTube’s part is a benefit in that it allows for a platform that encourages free speech 🗨️. 

However, this free speech can cause problems when it undermines the public good.

In our society, there’s the implicit insurance that we can have beliefs and make statements that’ll be rejected or criticized without stripping away our values as human beings 🙋.

That being said, hate speech and other forms of verbal abuse ostracizes entire groups of citizens of society, and has no place in public discourse.

One of the main reasons this toxicity is so prevalent on YouTube’s comment sections is the ability to anonymously interact with other users; viewers can easily create fake Google accounts and spread hate speech around the site.

Therefore, by initiating an account verification system, YouTube can require user data such as name, address, and phone 📞 number to reduce the likelihood of verbal abuse.

Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube already have verified accounts so users can identify when content is coming from a real source, but verifying all accounts could help discourage negative commentary on the site.

How this will change YouTube

If YouTube were to initiate a self-curated interface and account verification, the site would function completely differently.

First, YouTube AdSense would eventually disappear completely. Without the ability to get lost down the YouTube rabbit 🐰 hole by engaging with recommended videos and eye-catching thumbnails 🖼️ on the right hand side, viewers will visit the site, watch one video, and exit.

This change in user behavior would not provide YouTube with the funds they need, so they would ultimately need to discover a new source of revenue – subscriptions.

In fact, switching to a subscription-based revenue model would make sense for YouTube. 

First, viewer satisfaction 😀 would improve because consumers are used to paying for subscription services without ads.

Second, YouTube would no longer have to share its ad revenue with millions of creators all over the world 🌏.

Third, without the need for personalized ads, YouTube could stop collecting data from its users to help improve privacy on the platform. 

That being said, this revenue model could also have negative effects on society.

For example, content creators, without the potential for AdSense income, would most likely leave 💨 the site altogether.

Additionally, user exposure to differing points of view would be limited. 

Plus, a subscription could penalize those without expendable income to spend on such services; in turn, minority voices could be muted  🔇.

Even with all of this in mind, it seems to me that YouTube’s current problems with hate speech, child protection, and the protection of users’ personal information are so significant that self-curated interfaces, verified accounts, and de-monetization of creators are the inevitable future of the platform.