YouTube isn't for creators like me anymore

I’ve been around since the beginning. My first videos were uploaded to xFire - a service (like Steam, before Steam) that allowed friends to connect and chat with in-game overlays, browse servers, build clans, take screenshots and record and upload clips of their games. Then early DailyMotion, Google Video, and eventually YouTube. My first uploads were syncing my Halo: CE & CoD4 clan’s clips from xFire to YouTube.

Good ol’ 5-star rating, full channel page customization, 360p FLV video YouTube.

But things aren’t the same anymore. I feel like the place that I helped build, that so many creators like myself helped build, isn’t a home for us anymore. I feel like we’ve been pushed out.

Open up YouTube. (Real YouTube, either in a web browser without extensions or the official apps) and search for something. More often than not your searches will be ignored. Instead of “suggested videos” being something reserved for sidebars and homepages, it’s like our very searches are just “suggested ideas we vaguely want to watch videos about.” You know, from the video platform bought up and optimized by THE search engine company.

Let’s try searching “Halo.” This one’s a tricky one because it could be about the game franchise, the religious symbolism, the type of brand-making product tier, or Beyonce’s hit song.

I get a row of Shorts (on a desktop search, the last place any user wants Shorts to be pushed), an advertisement to watch the Halo TV show by bundling YouTube with a Paramount+ subscription, then a COUPLE videos about Halo the game (and Queen Bey’s song) and then MORE shorts.

Worse yet, only half the page down I’m presented with a “Viewers also watched” section. This section starts to deviate from my search terms entirely.

Let’s get more specific. Searching “Glitchy Abstract Painting” similarly gives a bunch of Shorts, 2-3 real videos, and then a “For You” section that simply pulls videos from the Homepage that have nothing to do with my search anymore. At all. **How is this acceptable? **A fundamental, core feature of YouTube has been made completely nonfunctional by design. And all the reps, creator teams, liaisons, whoever will happily smile to your face and tell you it’s for the better.

Meanwhile, you get a FAR better experience searching YouTube videos on BING than YouTube. (Not an exaggeration, Bing’s YouTube search is hella powerful and useful.)

Let me give you a brief, very incomplete list of things we’ve lost on YouTube:

  • Channel page customization (we used to be able to change the background, name sections, add a banner, a custom Subscribe button, and even some general theming - as well as the profile picture, of course)
  • Annotations (RIP a decade’s worth of corrections, cross-links/references, minigames, etc.)
  • 5 Star Rating system (nuance is good, up/down votes are not)
  • Visible dislikes
  • Video Categories (still exist, but hold no value)
  • Video Tags (still exist, but hold no value)
  • Shows Playlists (a special type of playlist with its own URL, own subscription option, Season/Episode info above the title, was super cool)
  • Video Responses
  • Stories (Not crying about it)
  • Featured channels tab on Channel page (still available as a section on channel page, but no longer an easy-to-find tab)
  • YouTube Gaming (actual live discoverability)
  • Subscriptions being the main emphasis
  • Description visibility
  • Ability to show on your videos/channel when you were live streaming on Twitch
  • Back catalog discovery (multiple years in a row)
  • Learning Playlists (failed to launch)
  • Control over ad placements in/around videos
  • Ability to use most of the website with Watch History disabled
  • Ability to search in Creator Dashboard by year & other similar quirks during the 2016-2019 Dashboard switch (yes it took 3+ years to roll out a new creator back-end)
  • and now… Search

And a whole lot of creator morale and trust along the way.

While I mourn so, so many of these features being lost, I think it’s more important to acknowledge the biggest thing we lost along the way: The integrity and cohesion of the platform.

I’ve been one of YouTube’s biggest defenders over the years, even when they didn’t deserve it. New layout, unpopular updates - YouTube completely changed my life and allows me to live a life I could only have dreamed of before. I don’t know what my life would be like without it. You could argue that the YouTube Partner Program caused one of the biggest societal shifts through the internet. But I can’t help but feel like I just don’t belong every time I take a deep look at the platform and what it expects of me as a creator anymore.

YouTube has been on a money-chasing venture for quite some time now. From years of reporting that it wasn’t profitable to 2016’s “Adpocalypse” - it’s needed money to survive. And it was hard to really argue against that, given their sustainability would be key to our sustainability as creators. But after TikTok’s peak during the pandemic and YouTube’s subsequent chasing their carrot on a stick… things were different.

Before Shorts, we got Stories. We already had channel page posts (later Community Posts) to communicate more directly in non-video-form with our audiences, but this was another way to (supposedly) keep them engaged with supplemental content. Not hugely offensive, but the blatant copying of features with no tangible gain to users was a bit uncharacteristic for YouTube. It was the canary.

Then, we got Shorts. And _whooo boy _it was a rough start. What started as a blatant copycat of TikTok’s video format turned into an arm’s race (to the bottom) for both platforms. First, it was just an alternate way to sort/search for videos (you had to manually tag them). Later, it developed into an entirely new category of “content” (hate that word) for the platform.

This effect, I believe, brought a net-positive result to YouTube. We FINALLY got changes to the system wherein different types of content videos would be treated as separate things with different recommendations systems, channel page sorting and so on. I love this. Live Stream VODs are now a completely different type of video, that (theoretically) don’t compete with/detract from your normal video performance as much. We see similar benefits now for Podcasts, and (of course) Shorts.

We almost got similar goodness for edu content in the form of Learning Playlists and Courses, but those never really got off the ground as features. Music also seems to be treated a little differently, now, too!

While there were plenty of growing pains and subscriber-frustration at the format flooding sub boxes (still a problem, by the way - pretty sure YouTube has a legal obligation to not acknowledge that the sub box exists anymore) Shorts getting segmented to a separate part of the mobile app made some sense. It was less aggressive than Instagram’s Reels rollout, and was clearly pandering to the mobile-first audience. Fine, cool. (We’ve seen similar things with TV focus bringing emphasis to long-form content, etc.)

But now, in 2024? Shorts are everywhere. The people at YouTube seemingly cannot stop trying to shove Shorts into every nook and cranny of the website. They’re on the homepage (in multiple sections), they’re on channel pages, they’re flooding Search, and they’ve even experimented with shoving them above recommended videos, next to the video you’re watching.

Shorts have become a plague and they’re actively destroying the website.

It’s not just “oh I’m an old man yelling at clouds and I don’t like the format.” No, no. In fact, for a time I was sold on some of the educational potential of the format. The problem is that it’s having such a detrimental impact on everyone’s experience with the platform, that I seriously question whether I can continue to do this as my job anymore.

Shorts pose a couple problems that I am constantly battling against: They take a bunch of time to make worthwhile ones that might perform well, but getting viewership on them is basically just gambling on a slot machine, and they don’t pay well, at all. YouTube (and TikTok and Instagram) are expecting us to divert all these resources to this format to boost THEIR numbers and compete with each other, but creators are NOT given proportionate return. TikTok and Shorts views are 100% inflated compared to traditional views, and ad rates are miniscule by comparison. We’re made to feel like Shorts are REQUIRED to grow, yet they can completely suck the life away from a channel and give absolutely nothing back.

But, more importantly I think (as Shorts _can _be completely ignored as a creator) is the impact it has on traditional videos.

The strategy of shoehorning Shorts into every part of the website isn’t a free initiative. They didn’t find blank space and say “hey let’s give users more options here!” (Ads often end up shoved in spaces that content didn’t exist before, Shorts do not.)

No, Shorts are, quite literally, shoving traditional videos out of the way. YouTube (_no_t the viewers) are taking impressions and views away from traditional videos to drive traffic to Shorts. Homepage? Move over videos you might want to watch, we have to fit 2-3 Shorts shelves on here! Suggested videos? Let’s try to shove a Shorts shelf here! SEARCH RESULTS? You want SEARCH RESULTS? Nah bro, forget whatever the fuck you were searching for, have some Shorts and a “For You” section instead.

Anything to distract the user into spending more time on the site and being served more ads, rather than getting what they want, huh?

For creators like myself - as this often disproportionately impacts educational/review/informative content more significantly than pure entertainment content - this is having devastating consequences. Back catalog views plummet every time they re-invest in shorts, our videos are competing with formats and changes we have no control over - and data consistently shows there’s minimal conversion from Shorts to Longs.

The number of multi-million-subscriber channels I’ve seen that got their subscribers from Shorts but can’t get a decent amount of views on their normal videos is terrifying.

YouTube constantly pushes the narrative that “there is no algorithm” and that YouTube performance is purely “a representation of the audience” but this simply is not true. This is basically gaslighting. YouTube is solely responsible for causing normal videos to perform worse because they have some initiative to shove Shorts everywhere.

Meanwhile they missed absolute golden opportunities to take back the live streaming space as Twitch spent years faltering, and they STILL cannot make a basic, functioning Live discovery page. It’s full of videos, game categories are full of unrelated junk.

This goes beyond incompetence at this point. It’s just plain malicious.

I’d say it’s a greedy quest for profits - but what profits are they chasing? TikTok isn’t profitable in the US, ByteDance has already said they’ll shut it down before they sell it off because of its unprofitability. So what are we suffering for? Why are channels like mine being harmed to chase this, when there isn’t any better money to be made from it? It’s not better for advertisers, it’s not better for users, it’s not better for creators.

I’ve been on YouTube for 18 years - since I was in Middle School - learning the new “web video” paradigm, chasing the YouTuber dream. I’ve seen multiple generations of YouTubers come and go - hell I was there being a part of the coining of the term “YouTuber” in the first place.

But YouTube, as it stands today, would not be a platform I’d choose to build my career on if I was approaching it fresh today. It does not feel like my home. It does not feel like the place I’ve known for more than half of my life so far. YouTube no longer welcomes me. It’s actively trying to shut me out with shallow garbage “content”.

YouTube has survived longer than virtually any other platform - and every attempt at a “new YouTube” - because of its strengths. YouTube was reliable, consistent. It knew what it did well and pushed to keep doing it better than anyone else.

But now… it feels like a shell of its former glory. It’s actively trying to move away from its strengths, it’s reactionary to things it doesn’t need to be afraid of, and it’s killing its roots, which will rot its way through the whole system.

Please, YouTube. It’s time to come home. It’s time to stop this. YouTube is too much of a culturally significant platform and library of history, education, entertainment, and “content” to get caught up in shortsighted feature cloning and risk losing it all. I’ve seen way too many of my colleagues give up or reduce emphasis on YouTube in the past couple years, I really worry that I might end up being one of them. At this point, being a video creator is in my blood. I don’t want to give it up. But I’m not sure I have a choice in this matter anymore, if YouTube wants to continue actively pushing me out.


No "be kind, Rewind", on the video with removed Youtube features. That’s poetry right there.

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