Ariel Bardin, Vice President of Product Management at YouTube, released a video on the Creator Insider channel on Tuesday outlining the platform’s reasons behind the “very controversial” decision.
In the video, Ariel said there were three types of feedback that the company have heard since announcing their plans to remove the feature.
“One of course is, do not remove community captions. The second one is we really want community captions as an option, and three, there were questions about how we came to this conclusion from a data perspective,” he said.
In responding to these concerns, Ariel listed three tools designed to “drive more captions”, including an integration into the upload flow, improvements to the captions editor, and a new permissions role.
He added: “Hopefully, between these three changes that will be coming in the next month, we’ll be able to really drive up the number of videos with captions, and of course not down.
“If it turns out that we made a mistake with this decision, then we will look at that decision again, and figure out what we can do.
“By not spending time on rebuilding the community captions functionality onto the new system, we can have more cycles to do other things.”
Ariel continued to say that what has been “underlying a lot of the desire to have community captions” is the ability for the community to add captions without creator involvement – something he described as a “tricky area”.
“At the end of the day, where we netted out on that question, is that it’s important that creators have control of captions, because they really are part of the video.
“The creator’s audience will really hold the creator accountable, in the event that they have something really bad in the captions.
“So the idea that we can have community contributed captions without the creator’s involvement is just something that I don’t we will want to do and I don’t think creators will want to have happen either,” he said.
Ariel also said that the social media platform has undergone “a significant update to our infrastructure over the last few years”, with community contributions being a feature on the old, classic studio.
“Creators have seen the new Studio. There are a few features that are still on the old system and we really have to wrap that up shortly and be done with the old system and retire it,” he said.
Elsewhere, the Vice President explained that the year-long subscription to the third-party service Amara – available to eligible creators – will cover the time in which the permissions tool is rolled out to creators.
He said: “We have a feature that will provide a good amount of the value of community captions – maybe not everything, but certainly, we’ll get to a lot of the value.
“We are hoping to ship that over the next quarters.”
The announcement of the deprecation of the feature was first made back in April, when it was revealed that 0.2% of watch time in the last month, at the time of the video, was with a community captions track enabled.
However, in Tuesday’s video, Ariel revealed that the statistic “was not the data that drove the decision”.
“The data that drove the decision was a comparison of the human caption sources – the community captions and the creator captions – and seeing the huge difference between the two,” he said.
The full video can be found on the Creator Insider YouTube channel.
Update: In a series of comments in response to the video, Deaf activist Andrew Parsons said: “Any data before community captions was locked down 12 months ago? A lot of creators on Twitter said they have to manually check to see if they receive submissions from their fans because YouTube Studio doesn’t notify them.
“Second question, why were people making subtitles for community contribution allowed to be anonymous? Git, Wiki, Amara and other platforms with participatory cultures still have usernames attached to contributions, edits and modifications.
“And third question, in addition to abusers being anonymous, why there wasn’t real-time collaboration? You have had the ability with Google Docs (current) and Google Wave (now retired).
“If you go through the workflows of how people fansubbed TV shows and movies, even in 2019, IRC and messaging apps like QQ and Discord were still central to making sure no one overwrite each others.
“So, that was kind of odd YouTube didn’t include some kind of communication feature with community captions in 2015 despite being chatrooms being integral since late ’90s and still widely practiced today.
“Last question, why did you make the community contribution difficult to find? A lot of people didn’t know that you need to go to the gear icon on the player or the three horizontal dots under the player to access community contribution, and it required creators teaching their community to locate the feature,” they said.
YouTube is yet to reply to their comments.