More than 40,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on YouTube to reverse its decision to remove community captions from the platform.
The tool, which will be retired on 28 September, allows viewers to submit subtitles and translations for videos by other channels and creators.
The petition was set up by Emma Wolfe, who said removing the feature “locks so many viewers out of the experience”.
“Most creators will be able to create captions for one, maybe two languages, but thats going to take a lot of time which they may not have.
“Community Captions ensured that many videos were accessible that otherwise were not, people from so many different backgrounds, working together to enjoy content together,” it reads.
In a community post announcing the decision yesterday, YouTube said they were aware that many users rely on the community captions feature.
“Thanks to the feedback we received, YouTube will be covering the cost of a 6 month subscription of Amara.org for all creators who have used the Community Contribution feature for at least 3 videos in the last 60 days.
“These creators will receive a notification on their YouTube Studio Dashboard (News Card) in the coming weeks with more information about how to sign up for the service,” it reads.
YouTube is yet to issue an official statement in response to the fresh concerns online, or respond to this website’s request for comment.
However, in an update to the post, a YouTube employee named Jordan shared more information on the recently announced ‘editor (limited) without revenue’ role in YouTube’s permissions.
The new setting, revealed in a video on the Creator Insider channel this week, also came with news that permissions would allow users to edit another channel’s end screens and “pretty soon, captions”.
“This role will be able to edit all parts of a creator’s content, which is more than just captions. This includes editing titles, descriptions, thumbnails, replying to comments, etc.
“It’s not yet available, but is in the works. It’s therefore not a perfect replacement, but we do have teams working on new and better tools for captioning needs.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have something more concrete to share right now in terms of details/timelines, but I’ll definitely keep everyone updated here on any future plans – you can subscribe to the thread for updates,” Jordan writes.
In response to queries around the Amara subscription, the staffer stressed that the site is “not monetising any transactions that occur” on the subtitling platform.
“We are working with Amara to offer YouTube Creators a comprehensive alternative to our Community Contribution feature, which enables crowd sourced captions.
“Amara has extensive experience working with creators to crowd-source captions and translations for their content and has built a streamlined integration with the YouTube platform that enables real-time updates to creator videos.
“Creators who don’t qualify for the subsidy are still able and encouraged to use Amara’s tools, including their free subtitle editor.”
“Providing high-quality captioning tools and improving accessibility on YouTube is definitely a priority – again, we hope the Amara offer helps during the transition and will keep you posted on any future YouTube product plans/developments,” he says.
In a separate comment, Jordan went on to add that both the automatic and manual captioning options are used more than the community contributions feature.
“While this was a hard decision to make, discontinuing this feature (that has much lower usage than other captioning tools) will allow us to focus efforts on improving existing tools and building newer/better captioning tools for everyone,” he concludes.
The full community post can be found on the YouTube Help website.
Update: At the time of writing, the Change.org petition now has over 95k signatures.
It comes after several high-profile YouTube creators shared the webpage on Twitter earlier today.
In a tweet, Phil Lester, known online as AmazingPhil, confirmed he had signed the petition.
“Community captions have made my channel accessible for so many people, with some videos having over 15 languages! It’d be such a shame for this to be removed.
Responding to his post, the Team YouTube Twitter account said: “Your community has done amazing work, Phil.
“This change enables us to focus on improving accessibility features.
“Meanwhile, we’re providing you with access to Amara.org (a non-profit) with crowdsourced captions, while we explore better solutions.”
They concluded their message by saying that more details about this would be revealed “soon”.
US YouTuber and TikTok star Thomas Sanders also signed the petition, saying: “So many of you have helped our videos remain accessible in so many languages, and I don’t wanna see that being taken away!”
Sharing his thoughts in a Twitter thread, author and Vlogbrothers co-host Hank Green said: “Taking this feature away without any way of replacing the good with it is kinda inexcusable.”
“If there are any YouTube employees reading this, hey, it’s Hank. Walk this one back. Support it for the channels using it until you get a replacement online,” he added.