YouTube is removing the dislike count, that is the number of people pressing “thumbs down”, the site’s official blog reports. The button will remain in place, and you will still be able to click it to voice your dislike, but the number of down-votes will be kept hidden, only visible to the video owner inside YouTube Studio.
The reason given this change is that YouTube wants to protect content creators from harassment and reduce what they call “dislike attacks” – that is, what they perceive as relatively targeted attacks where viewers give a “thumbs down” on videos because it had already received some negative feedback.
According to YouTube’s experiments around this, when the number of dislike votes is made private, it also lowers the probability that a new viewer will pile on with their own thumbs down. They asked smaller creators and those just getting started saying they were unfairly targeted by this behavior — and YouTube’s experiment confirmed that this does occur at a higher proportion on smaller channels.
This YouTube change does sound like a good thing for smaller video creators, but it might not necessarily be possible for those who simply want to know what to consume among all the content on the platform.
More influential creators, however, do not necessarily welcome the change. Marques Brownlee, perhaps the most successful tech YouTuber, thinks the change is well-intentioned, that they are thinking about creators and their mental health, but he also thinks removing the count will do more harm to the user experience than the problems it solves. He asks for a more nuanced solution than just carpet removing the dislike counter from every video.
In the future, it will not be possible to look at the number of “thumbs down” to judge whether a video is worth spending time on. Instead you will actually have to watch it yourself, or settle for skimming through the comments in order to hopefully be able to distinguish decent content from the crap that isn’t worth your precious time.
It will take a few days for this update to roll out globally, and for now, many of us will still be able to see down-votes as usual. Interestingly, YouTube posted a video about this news on its YouTube Creators channel. At the time of writing, this has received 13,000 thumbs up and 116,000 thumbs down.