Comments on YouTube videos can be a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Now Google is arming uploaders with Google+ comment moderation powers.
Seth RosenblattFormer Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Laugh all you want, fuzzball, but Google is changing how YouTube uploaders manage comments on their videos. The new system, which began rolling out to a limited number of uploaders on Tuesday, favors relevancy over recency and introduces enhanced moderation tools.
The new commenting system, which is powered by Google+ and was developed in collaboration between the YouTube and Google+ teams, provides several new tools for moderation, said Nundu Janakiram, product manager at YouTube. It will default to showing YouTube viewers the most relevant comments first, such as those by the video uploader or channel owner.
"Currently, you see comments from the last random person to stop by," Janakiram said. "The new system tries to surface the most meaningful conversation to you. We're trying to shift from comments to meaningful conversations," he said.
He explained that three main factors determine which comments are more relevant: community engagement by the commenter, up-votes for a particular comment, and commenter reputation. If you've been flagged for spam or abuse, don't be surprised to find your comments buried, but that also means that celebrities who have strong Google+ reputations will be boosted above others.
There's more to the system than just relevancy, though. Because the system is powered by Google+, comments made on posts with YouTube links in the social network will show up on YouTube itself. So, you'll see comments from people in your Google+ Circles higher up, too.
Just because it's powered by Google+ doesn't mean that you'll lose your YouTube identity, though. "You are still allowed to use pseudonyms," said Janakiram, whether you're "a Syrian dissident or SoulPancake".
Another feature, and one that speaks directly to YouTube's goal of fostering conversations, is that you'll be able to comment publicly or privately to people in your Circles. Replies will be threaded like Gmail.
The hope is that new moderation tools will make it easier for video owners to guide the conversation, Janakiram explained. "There have been challenges in the past with certain comments and what's been shown there."
The moderation tools for uploaders and channel owners include the ability to review comments before they're posted, blacklisting certain words, and whitelisting specific commenters so their posts will always be approved.
As an example of what the new system can do, Janakiram said that "a channel or creator can create a video just for a [Google+] Circle of top fans."
The new system also will let commenters switch back to a recency view, thanks to a drop-down menu. It won't delete comments from the previous system, either. It's being made available only to a limited number of YouTube channel owners at the moment. Janakiram said that all YouTube uploaders ought to have the new system before the end of the year.
It may be hard to believe, but we could soon be living in a future where the dark side of human interaction has been diminished on YouTube.