Reading the comments section on any popular YouTube video can prove to be an infuriating expedition. From blatantly offensive to blindly ignorant, the YouTube comment section has earned a reputation for being a dark place where anonymous posters acting like preteens sling ad hominem at one another. YouTube is looking to turn all of this around, however, and dares to create something useful out of it.
Rather than keep the broadly structured chronological comment system, YouTube plans to create “engaged conversations” consisting of a mix of comments from big YouTube personalities and friends on Google+.
While open comment boards can be a laissez-faire, democratic way for people to share new ideas and constructive criticism, too often they turn ugly. The become a cesspool of poor grammar, unchecked ignorance and heated arguments over the sexual orientations of other disagreeing posters. YouTube is not by any means the only place where this happens, and many other websites have found their own ways of dealing with unruly adult children. Popular Science’s website went as far as removing the comments section altogether.
YouTube’s methods seek to return online conversations to a more old-school feel, hearkening back to a time when the Internet was made up of small, close-knit communities instead of the high school-esque culture-clashing melting pot that it is now. While the YouTube personalities will likely carry a great deal of merit, YouTube seems to be banking on Google+ users to keep up the conversation. Engaged conversations will rank highest on the totem pole—a risky move since the most “engaged” conversations are often full of posters slinging verbal mud on one another. Still, this method allows users to see where the party is and participate if they’re feeling brave enough.
Imagining an Internet in which users can freely share opinions without ruining an entire conversation sounds like a pipe dream, but maybe Google has the right idea. Regardless, trolls will be trolls, and everyone else will keep reading and posting, even if it’s not the most productive endeavor.