YouTube’s made the decision to squash a feature I honestly forgot existed — its private messages. It’s stated reason is to focus on public conversations — and for once I believe the party line here.
According to Google’s announcement, “Two years ago, we launched a feature to enable you to share videos via direct messages on YouTube. Since then, we’ve also focused on public conversations with updates to comments, posts, and stories.” That’s certainly true, given how it’s fiddled with it formula since then.
With the plethora of other messaging apps and platforms available, I’m curious to know how many use cases there are for YouTube DMs — The Verge pointed out that Google alone offers roughly a baker’s dozen other ways to get in touch with someone.
TechCrunch noticed a large portion of those protesting the change were children (or alleged children) who’d apparently been using YouTube’s DMs to circumvent parental bans on social media and messaging. Check the Google Support announcement if you want to see the impassioned repetition of “Please don’t get rid of the only way I have of talking to my friends.”
I’m all for the cultivation of online friendships, don’t get me wrong — but seeing that makes me more in favor of Google canning the feature, not against it. Assuming TC is correct and the people making these comments are primarily children, YouTube’s got enough child exploitation on it without letting its DMs run rampant as well.
Google seems to be evolving YouTube into a platform of entertainers and audiences. By eliminating DMs, it’s encouraging communities to do their communicating in the public comments section or in a channel’s posts. It’s not really a “friend” platform so much as it is a combination theater/storefront where Google can cultivate its ad revenue. Without meaning to sound cynical, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google’s inclusion of the feature was to tick a box on a list of features social media sites are “supposed” to have, only to scrap it when it’s mostly utilized by kids eager to slip their digital leashes.
YouTube’s consolation prize is to remind everyone the share button exists — which seems like a bit of a poor substitute, but I guess that’s the best users are going to get. YouTube Messages officially go away on September 18.