Indian Express: Where’s the you in YouTube?


by Jen Carswell

Taking a page from the worldwide web, the supremely popular video-sharing site YouTube has also decided to transform into a glitzier 2.0 version. Current users have the option of changing to a more aesthetic and participative page layout—but soon the switch will be mandatory. However the initial overhaul date has been delayed by weeks, perhaps months, because of still unsolved glitches. But forums and comment spaces are buzzing with unhappy YouTubers, fingers angrily expressing their distaste for the updated version. So, why all the fuss?

First things first: the new look. With a sleeker, sexier design—rounded edges, warmer colours—the user’s posted videos fill the screen, with the latest video in the main player. Underneath, organisable boxes house other features like friends, subscriptions and recent activity. At first glance, the new site seems more professional, with a less basement, messing-around-with-your-mates vibe.

But many YouTube fanatics are not at all impressed by the revamp. The YouTube blog, created specifically for the switch, is alight with negative comments. Japanlover97 says “I don’t care how many bugs there are, or when they’ll be fixed. Why “fix” something that isn’t broken?” User Selif adds, “The new one is over-bloated with flash and is a pain to work with. I like the channel design just fine without changing.” On Twitter, FattLip is “so happy the switchover to Beta is delayed, there are a lot of problems with it! Please reconsider forcing everyone to switch”.

Surfing from his desktop in Andheri, Anish Chatterjee uses YouTube, like most of us, to find funny clips and movie trailers. So he doesn’t spend a lot of time on his personal homepage. “I think the version’s nice,” he e-messages, adding “it doesn’t really make a difference to me, since I’m the kind of user who goes straight to the search bar anyway.”

Asfaq Tapia, a 25-year-old techie who uses YouTube nearly everyday, doesn’t understand why people don’t like the new look. “I like the new design, there are more options to view videos and it’s easier to navigate.”

The majority of unhappy commentators simply want an option: to update or not to update. But despite YouTube’s usual freedom of expression, it is, after all, not a democracy.

The reasons behind the change are to allow a more customised look for users, to allow them to navigate more easily and to beef up security. Most importantly, all corners have been rounded, which will save on costly pixels. A lighter running model would allow YouTube to cut down operating costs—a measure that the Google-owned site desperately needs.

Internet giant Google refuses to give specific numbers, but estimates run anywhere from $100 million to $400 million. Twenty minutes of video are uploaded every minute and traditional advertising barely dents the website’s perennial deficit.

“When Facebook changed its look, it faced the same kind of backlash,” explains Aditya Nag, a senior analyst at PC World India. He is quick to point out that the YouTube ‘blackout’, asking users not to log on to the site for 24 hours on July 14, failed to gain substantial momentum. With few constructive comments, understanding the discontentment is difficult. “In a month, everyone will be used to the new look and will have forgotten about the whole controversy,” adds Nag.

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