YouTube achieved peak troll this week when PewDiePie, video gamer star of the video-sharing community’s most popular channel ever, disabled comments, cutting off onsite communication with his more-than 30 million subscribers.
In a video titled “Goodbye Forever Comments,” PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, addresses his fans, whom he affectionately calls “bros,” and explains that communicating with his fans in the YouTube comments system is almost impossible because of the overwhelming amount of spam and trolling:
“It’s been bothering me for so long now, I’ve been trying to find solutions to it. I was hoping that it would get better, I was hoping YouTube would try and figure a way out, but it doesn’t seem like it. I’m just sick of it, so I’m going to turn off the comments forever, they’re not coming back. I wouldn’t say that we lose something, I would say we’re taking the next step in the right direction, because it’s been going on for too long, these comments being shit.”
For the uninitiated, YouTube comments have long been a miserable cesspool of near-illiterate insults, obscenities and spam. There was never a time I’ve scrolled down to read comments on a YouTube video (whatever video it may be) and thought to myself, “why yes, that was a good idea.”
This is a widely-shared sentiment amongst YouTube users, and yet the trolls keep coming. Now that the Google-owned site is spending big bucks on making its homegrown stars household names, the time for a fix is long overdue.
It was only in May of this year that Kjellberg seemed to have a better handle on the comments system, posting a video titled “Mean Comments” where the YouTube gamer read and made good-natured fun of the troll comments on his videos.
YouTube has tried to remedy their comment situation in the past. In September 2013, the company integrated Google+ to YouTube, so that comments from recognizable profiles were prioritized. With Google+, YouTube users were also encouraged to use their real names, which forced some less-than-pleasant users to come out from anonymity.
After much pushback, this implementation ended in July 2014, when YouTube ended all restrictions on usernames that one could choose for the site. And once again, the trolls reared their ugly heads.
So what happens now? YouTube’s number one creator and veritable face of the brand has effectively cut off a significant portion of the video site as if it were an infected limb. Kjellberg would rather interact with his 30 million fans elsewhere, rather than the one part of the site that is meant for communication. That alone should send a message to YouTube loud and clear.
The message is this: YouTube, get your comments system together.
YouTube is heading on a high-speed train towards mainstream media, and will now be competing with Amazon-acquired Twitch, the livestreaming gaming site whose community chat is an integral part of its service. Service which is drawing millions of new users per month. Your move, YouTube.
Images courtesy of PewDiePie