YouTube May Soon Put an End to Custom Thumbnails

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.     

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Your Comment


You really should change the title of this article... So far from the truth. In short, Youtube is most likely trying to improve how they auto generates thumbnails for those who don't upload a custom ones. Nothing about their test or statement says they'll be straight up removing custom thumbnails.
And of course I'm not saying their "experiments" are ok. Very uncool. Much like your title.

June 29, 2018 at 10:13AM

Caleb Pike
Shooter, Educator

It is definitely disrespectful to the creators by not asking for consent or at least the choice to opt in... change can be good and I’m sure there’s no easy way to roll out new features to over a billion users but still a slap in the face

June 29, 2018 at 10:15AM

Luis Garcia

Here is the thing... Youtube is a private company who has a lot of control over the online video landscape. There job is to increase revenue to shareholders . Content Creators can complain, but complaining is just a waste of time and energy. Get in line and keep using Youtube because the reality is you are not going to leave YouTube no matter how much you dislike the changes.

June 29, 2018 at 11:06AM

You voted '+1'.
Walter Wallace

Out-thumbnails should be standard. Too many channels use their thumbnails as click bait. Often the image in the thumbnail doesn't even appear in the video... too bad you can rescind you "view" if a user tricks you into watching something you weren't expecting.

July 4, 2018 at 10:14AM

Jesse Yules