YouTube is testing a new layout which hides comments behind a button for some users of its Android app in India. The test is the latest in a series of changes that YouTube has rolled and proposed over the last year which restrict the ability of users to express opinions on the site.
YouTube comments usually appear below the “Up next” section in the Android app and are displayed when users scroll past the recommended videos in this section.
According to XDA Developers, the new layout that’s being tested replaces the YouTube comments below the “Up next” section with a message that says “Looking for comments? Tap here.”
Tapping this message directs users to the set of buttons that is traditionally above the “Up next” section. This set of buttons includes a new “Comments” button that appears between the “Dislike” button and the “Share” button.
Tapping this new “Comments” button then displays the video comments. It’s not clear whether this new “Comments” button can be accessed without scrolling to the bottom of the “Up next” section or if it only appears after tapping the “Looking for comments? Tap here” message.
If the new “Comments” button does only appear after tapping the message at the bottom of the “Up next” section, then this new layout forces users to make two extra taps before they can even see the comments. If the new “Comments” button appears by default at the top of the “Up next” section, this new layout forces users to make an additional tap to see video comments but it does reduce the amount of scrolling they have to do. Either way, the comments are hidden by default and can only be made visible with at least one tap.
According to The Verge, this is one of many comment placement options that YouTube is testing with a YouTube spokesperson saying:
“We’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch, share and interact with the videos that matter most to them. We are testing a few different options on how to display comments on the watch page. This is one of many small experiments we run all the time on YouTube, and we’ll consider rolling features out more broadly based on feedback on these experiments.”
Ever since YouTube Rewind 2018 became YouTube’s most disliked video ever, YouTube has been chipping away at features which allow users to criticize videos.
First, it floated the idea of getting rid of the dislike button – a move that would suppress criticism and make it impossible for users to determine how popular a video really is.
If this new layout that’s currently being tested is rolled out fully, all comments and dissenting opinions will be hidden from YouTube viewers by default.
These tests which make comments less visible on YouTube are reflective of a wider pattern of comments sections disappearing from the internet. Many sites are shutting down their comments sections while apps that attempt to open these comments sections back up and allow free and open discussions to take place are being censored.