YouTube has received an extremely large amount of criticism since Google bought the site in late 2006, with countless changes and decisions that have garnered criticism from users.
The Community Guidelines have been criticized by users for seeming needlessly strict and "unfair" as well as the staff's enforcement of these rules wavering from time to time. Another complaint is that YouTube constantly changes the rules to keep advertisers on the site, barring any content that doesn't fit their "family friendly" image from being monetized. This causes users to point out that there are some inappropriate videos such as the Happy Tree Friends that are not removed or age restricted despite their content not being family friendly.
On every video there is a flag button to remove any inappropriate videos. However, this has received very negative feedback, with people touting it as a near useless service because violating videos that are flagged tend not to get removed anyway. There are also constant reports of non-inappropriate videos being false flagged and getting removed. Rude or offensive language in videos cannot be flagged.
Age restrictions have been deeply criticized for blocking underage users from viewing the video. The new update allows users to age restrict their videos causing more or less criticism. There have also been complaints of videos with no inappropriate content being age restricted. Worst of all, videos that are age restricted can't be monetized. Another complaint is that YouTube itself can decide whether or not content should be age restricted and can permanently restrict it should they do so.
2019 COPPA Rule Changes
In September 2019, YouTube came under fire from the FTC for inappropriately collecting data on children after a compliant was filed to the FTC earlier in August that year concerning sponsored videos not being disclosed on the channel Ryan's World. As a result of this, YouTube began work on implementing stricter guidelines over whether videos are suitable for children or not which went into effect in January 2020. One of the biggest changes was that creators would now have to mark whether their videos or channels were for kids or not. The new guidelines garnered criticism not only for their vague guidelines and potential legal risks for creators, but for also retroactively rendering "The Adpocalypse" all for nothing in the long run since the "family friendly content" creators had been forced to make for years to appease advertisers was now what was putting their revenue, and some key features of videos, at stake. The fact that YouTube Kids, the branch site made specifically for kids, was not made the platform for all kids content going forward instead was a major source of criticism.
Copyright on YouTube has been extremely criticized for making it impossible to post short clips from movies or use songs within videos. There have also been reports of licensed people's videos getting removed from YouTube despite them owning the content.
Community Guideline Strikes & Copyright Strikes
Community Guidelines Strikes and Copyright Strikes have been insanely criticized for many reasons. One reason is that getting a strike disables many features for the creator, which they may not be able to get back until the strike expires in 90 days. Another huge complaint is how easy it is for people and companies to abuse the system so that even if there isn't any copyrighted material in the video or if the person claiming the video is pretending to be the copyright holder, they can still claim the entire video and take all the revenue away from the creator, getting away with their actions scot-free.
Country Restrictions have been severely criticized because many people cannot watch videos because it is blocked either in their country or worldwide. This can happen even if the video in question is in the viewer's language. Such examples are the Beyblade and LEGO channels making the English versions of their respective series unavailable in the U.S.
2013 Content ID System Update
On December 10, 2013, YouTube made changes to the ContentID System, which upon startup quickly flagged thousands of videos on the site. The update was widely criticized for making it much harder to monetize videos without getting claims for copyrighted music, video games, or any other sort of copyrighted material. The fact that the system is automated and thus can't tell if someone has permission from the copyright holder to use their material did not help matters. Gaming channels were hit the hardest as footage of games was a huge target at the beginning.
Cosmic Panda Layout
This layout received backlash when it was first released for aesthetic reasons. However, this largely died down when the One Channel layout was released.
One Channel Layout
The One Channel Layout received far more criticism. Many YouTubers disliked the lack of customization options and discussion features compared to the older layouts. When the layout became mandatory, there was a ton of outrage, causing some YouTubers to quit and delete their channels.
Removal of Animated Banners
On July 23rd 2014, YouTube added a feature to the One Channel layout that allowed users to design their very own animated banners. Many praised the update for making the One Channel layout more comfortable to use. On August 6th, 2014, YouTube removed the feature without reasoning, causing a lot of outrage since it limited users to a regular photo banner again.
2013 Comments Section Update
Google updated the commenting system on channels in 2013. The new system was severely detested upon release. Two major criticisms were the inclusion of links and the removal of the 500 character limit, since those two changes led to a massive influx of spam comments, which was what YouTube was actually trying to prevent with the update. Many users also disliked the requirement of a Google+ account to comment on videos. This gave birth to the "Bob building an army" meme in an attempt to get Google+ off of the site. Jawed Karim himself also voiced his disapproval for the new system, lamenting that he would no longer be able to comment on the site since he didn't want a Google+ account.
Before 2013, YouTube did not allow users to comment links. Users disliked this since they couldn't link other users to other YouTube videos. After the 2013 Comments Section Update removed this limitation, many were upset since it allowed bots to spam links to web sites that were loaded with malware.
Removal of uploader review
A few months after the 2013 Comment Section Update, YouTube removed the ability for creators to approve comments before they're posted or shown. This drew criticism since it removed the moderation creators had for swearing and spam in the comments section.
Area Change on Mobile
In April 2020, YouTube decided to change the location of where the comments were displayed from the bottom of the video page layout all the way to the top on the mobile version of the app (iOS/Android). The comments were moved from the very bottom space right under the suggested videos all the way up to having it under the video controls (Like, Dislike, Share, Download, Save) This change was probably done so they're easier to access, but many people still criticized the change because it can take many people time to get used to, and that the section only displayed one top/pinned comment. On top of that, you have to tap on the area once to access the full page, and the comment functions (Top Comments/Newest First)
YouTube is highly criticized for its extremely immature community. Many users on YouTube have been known to make very childish responses to changes on YouTube as well as posting rude comments to people asking about the video. For example when a user requests the name of a song that isn't mentioned, users would post "Darude Sandstorm" to trick users. Many users also send death threats to those who have a different opinion. Many users ask YouTube to handle the abusive ones but they aren't banned because of YouTube's activity.
The Staff working at YouTube have been heavily criticized for their poor customer service, general disconnection from the creators who helped them build the site, numerous rule changes that only seem to benefit themselves or advertisers and their insistence on keeping creators locked out of the loop in terms of problems the site experiences while pretending that there is nothing wrong.
Music and Media Companies
Music and Media Companies in particular have been heavily criticized, with the biggest targets being Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Viacom and VEVO. Common complaints are their constant complaining and attempted lawsuits on the site which led to many of the rule changes concerning copyright, their blatant exploitation of the ContentID and copyright systems to claim properties that aren't even theirs, and their claims on countless videos and parodies despite them being Fair Use or the music/media being used in them only taking a few seconds at most.
YouTube Account Settings
Real NamesSince June 2012, Google harassed YouTubers into using their real names on YouTube, tying them to their Google+ accounts. The popup was persistent, coming back after about a week. This garnered criticism as many didn't want to use their real names for privacy reasons, or wanted to keep their well known channel username. Eventually, Google got the message from all the complaining and dropped this requirement in 2015.
Before 2015, users were required to create a Google+ account on the site. This was highly detested for the following reasons:
- Many accused Google+ of being a shallow copy of Facebook.
- Users were forced to use their real names.
- Google+ made it more difficult to edit channel settings.
- Google+ makes messages to Google+ and not YouTube.
- Google+ was required to comment and reply to comments.
- Google+ sometimes automatically logged users out.
On YouTube, Google offers full movies that can be bought for money. Many people don't like this feature because of this paywall.
Removal of Star Rating System
In 2010, YouTube replaced the 1-5 star rating system with a like and dislike system in an effort to be more like Facebook. There was slight outrage due to it feeling limited compared to before when users had more options on how many stars they could add.
Adverts on YouTube have been criticized for taking up a lot of space on the site. Video ads are likewise viewed as a waste of time, especially the unskippable ads. This has led to many users turning to Adblock Plus to keep the site ad free. Eventually, YouTube made every 30-Second long ad skippable. However, people also criticized the fact that they sometimes have to wait TWO ads before their video plays or the fact that an ad plays when a video ends. People have also criticized that the double ads are now mostly Unskippable 15-Second ones instead of the usual 6-Second ones that play as Double Ads.
On May 10, 2013 YouTube previewed a new feature that let YouTubers pay channels to watch videos. Many users hated it as they felt it broke the premise of YouTube being a free website, saying that YouTube was a not free website anymore.
Video Length Limitations
YouTube limits the time length of videos for standard YouTubers to 15 minutes in order to prevent spam, copyright, and to keep old computers normal. Many people criticize it because they can't make their own movies, episodes, and series.
After the introduction of 144p, YouTube videos began buffering really badly. This is due to the implementation of "Dash playback". Previously, YouTube allowed users to buffer the whole video, so that those with slower connections could start buffering a video they wanted to watch and then come back later when it was done buffering. Then, Google switched over to DASH, which causes videos to buffer in one minute chunks, rather than allowing users to cache the whole buffer on their systems. This doesn't work out for everyone, especially those with slower connections. Users who had found this out were not pleased.
Later on, after users had found a way to disable DASH, Google changed the system so that anyone who found a way to disable DASH would lose access to 480p, all qualities at 1080p and above, and support for 60 FPS.
Removal of Inactive Users
Every few months, YouTube deletes inactive accounts in order to remove possible spam accounts. Users dislike this because they lose subscribers.
The introduction of the YouTube Heroes program in September 2016 was met with skepticism and scorn from many users, since it was asking the users to do a job they believed Google themselves should've been doing already, all for no reward other than tools that allow them to work better. The fact that users would be given the power to do things like mass-flag videos once they reached a certain level was a huge cause for alarm, given the high probability people would abuse it to censor videos they didn't like. The backlash was so immense that YouTube deleted the announcement video, rebranded the service to YouTube Contributors and have kept the program in closed beta ever since.
Abbreviation of Subscriber Counts
In May 2019, YouTube announced that by August of that year, live subscriber counts would be hidden (1,356,924 million subscribers would be shown as 1.35M) to "make things more consistent", with it going into effect that September. This immediately garnered criticism for not only depriving the community of yet another important statistic, but for severely hampering every site that depended on YouTube's API to track subscriber counts, most famously SocialBlade. Some mentioned the subscriber battle between PewDiePie and T-Series as a possible reason for this change.
Removal of Community Captions
YouTube's announcement in August 2020 that Community Captions were being removed for spam and low engagement drew heavy criticism from the community for removing a much beloved feature because some people were abusing them and the low engagement being an effect of YouTube not telling its users where it was. Much criticism came from channels who were dependent on community captions to help those who spoke different languages or had hearing disabilities understand what was going on in the video. Another point of criticism was that while the ability for creators to change captions was kept, many creators wouldn't have the time or effort to create captions for different languages, with the only channels that could being corporations and companies. That the original announcement video months prior asking if they should be removed had a universal "keep them" reaction only made the decision more egregious.