Over the next few weeks, YouTube will run an experiment where 0.3 percent of its viewers will see automatically generated video thumbnails, rather than the images YouTubers created.
That may not sound like much of a reach, but given that the service pulls in 1.8 billion viewers each month, the auto-generated thumbnails could be seen by more than 5 million people.
"We are not removing the ability to create your custom thumbnail, but we hope to gain insights on auto-generated thumbnails for the future," the company clarified on Twitter Wednesday.
That explanation didn't exactly wow YouTubers.
Rayo Alarcón Gareca tweeted at the company, wanting to know why his video thumbnails "are no longer seen."
Joshua MacDougall, whose channel "Really Freakin' Clever" has nearly 145,000 subscribers, wondered why YouTube didn't give a heads up. "Does someone get shot if YouTube announces something before it happens?" he asked.
YouTube declined to comment beyond its explanation here.
There's an art to creating a YouTube thumbnail that allows the video to stand out in an enormous sea of daily uploads. The right thumbnail drives views.
The experiment is temporary, but many creators are already concerned about what this could mean for the future.
Marques Brownlee, who has 6.3 million YouTube subscribers and was named "Creator of the Decade" at the Shorty Awards, an annual awards show for short-form content, tweeted a parody of YouTube's explanation. "YouTube in 2023: We are running a small experiment where 2% of viewers will see a Jake Paul video, instead of your video," he said. "We are not removing the ability to make your own videos, but we hope to gain insights on engagement the dislike button for the future."
SungWon Cho, known as ProZD on Youtube with a following of 1.4 million users, tweeted, "youtube excels at doing things that LITERALLY ZERO PEOPLE ASKED FOR," in response to Team YouTube's official Twitter account.
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