YouTube announced today it will begin testing what could end up being a significant change to its video platform: It’s going to try hiding the dislike count on videos from public view. The company says it will run a “small experiment” to try out a few different designs where dislike counts are no longer shown. However, none will see the “dislike” button itself removed entirely.
The company announced the tests on Twitter, but then explains further in a community forum post that the goal is not to remove the ability for users to signal they disliked a video — creators will still have access to the videos like and dislike count from YouTube Studio and dislikes will still help power YouTube’s recommendation algorithms.
Instead, YouTube says that the idea to try hiding dislikes is based on creator feedback.
“We’ve heard from creators that the public dislike counts can impact their well-being and may motivate a targeted campaign of dislikes on a creator’s video,” the announcement reads. “So, we’re testing designs that don’t include the visible like or dislike count to balance improving the creator experience while still making sure viewer feedback is accounted for and shared with the creator.”
Of course, there can be a sort of mob mentality that accompanies the use of the Like and Dislike buttons on YouTube. But seeing the dislike count can also help signal to others when videos are clickbait, spam, or misleading, which can be helpful.
Creators, you’ll still be able to see the exact number of likes and dislikes in YouTube Studio. For viewers, if you’re in the experiment, you can still like or dislike a video to share feedback with creators and help tune the recommendations you see on YouTube.
— YouTube (@YouTube) March 30, 2021
YouTube showed off one potential design being tested that simply shows the same button layout, but instead of several dislikes, the word “Dislike” appears underneath the thumbs down icon.
There will be no way to opt-out of the test if you see the changes appear when you’re logged into YouTube — you’ll only be able to share feedback, the company notes.
To be clear, however, YouTube isn’t yet committed to removing the dislike count for everyone at this time. The feedback from this test will help inform YouTube as to if, when, or how it will release designs like this more broadly.
YouTube wouldn’t be the first to experiment with removing metrics from a social app. Instagram has also been testing removing the number of positive engagements (Likes) to make the experience feel authentic and less about chasing clout. And Facebook this year pulled the “Like” button from Facebook Pages in favor of the more accurate “Followers” measurement. However, in the case of removing just the dislike count and not the likes, viewers may misunderstand a video’s actual popularity.
The company told TechCrunch that the tests will run globally over the next few weeks on Android and iOS while gathering feedback from a handful of designs.
Updated 3/30/21, 6 pm et to add details about launch.