The video platform aims to kill off user creativity in favor of auto-generated stills.
Any good online creator knows how important it is to have complete control over each aspect of your film, in effect, enhancing its visibility. There are many tools available on YouTube that a user can manipulate to better fit his or her content and attract an audience, one of the most obvious being the ability to upload a custom thumbnail to act as the featured image for their video.
Many creators would claim that this ability is essential in building a brand. You can create a high quality still that features an eye-popping background, your name, the name of your show, face, etc. to attract new viewers to your project.
It's then no surprise that many were shocked and upset by a statement made by YouTube yesterday in which they revealed a plan to test a feature that would improve the platform's ability to create auto-generated thumbnails.
The manner in which it's being tested is questionable. Over the next few weeks, YouTube will run an experiment where 0.3 percent of viewers will see these new auto-generated thumbnails rather than creators’ custom-made images. The viewers will be selected at random and creators will not be notified that their video has been chosen. 0.3 percent may not seem like a large number at first, but when you consider the fact that YouTube has over 1.5 billion monthly users, that's a pretty large amount.
Now, the thought that this could happen to a video that a user spent hours of time (or in some cases, even money) on is a pretty scary one, but the fact that they are doing it without the notification or consent of the user is even more insulting.
The Verge cites a response from Riley J. Dennis, who spoke for many when they lamented, "You shouldn’t just.... run experiments on us without our consent? At least let creators opt-in to this if they want...There’s a reason we design our own thumbnails. You’re harming our branding and engagement for your own research purposes.”
For now, this remains a mere experiment for YouTube, with officials clarifying, “We are not removing the ability to create your custom thumbnail, but we hope to gain insights on auto-generated thumbnails for the future.” They also have come out responding that they have “no current plans to change or remove the ability to add custom thumbnails."
For the platform, however, it addresses a long sought after company need, censoring the images of bad users, trolls, and advertisers trying to take advantage of their algorithm. But the price of this decision is a steep one, especially for creators that depend on the platform as a part of their livelihood.
Hopefully, YouTube can find a way to keep everyone happy.