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YouTube is testing views and likes that update in real-time… but why?

Published Dec 4th, 2023 10:24PM EST
YouTube app
Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

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As if the unskippable ads that made so many people use adblockers with YouTube aren’t enough of a nuisance, Google might have found another way to ruin the free YouTube experience. The company is adding live counters for YouTube views and likes that update in real-time. Who in their right mind would want that to interfere with the videos they’re watching on YouTube?

I’ll point out that Google is annoyed at people using adblockers. It’s trying to ban them, but it hasn’t gotten there just yet. Of course, adblockers only became popular because ads online became increasingly annoying, including the ones on YouTube. It’s a problem of Google’s own making. Adding counters for views and likes that update in real-time is a feature that will also annoy plenty of people, I’m sure.

I have not experienced it yet, but I’d sure be among the many people who are unhappy to see those counters changing in real-time. They draw unnecessary attention to them, something I don’t want when watching videos. And while I know I’d get used to them, I’m also aware of how the mind works.

Whether I want it or not, the ticking of those live counters would make me look at them rather than the video. In turn, this would force me to watch the clip in full screen, something I typically don’t want to do.

Thankfully, the feature is only in testing for now. Tests seem to have started in October, according to posts on Reddit. But AndroidPolice has just started noticing it. There might be an unofficial fix for it if you happen to encounter the behavior. It comes from the same Reddit post, though it might not always work.

Importantly, the feature that Google is testing seems to work only on the Android app. There’s no telling whether Google will move forward with it after the test. My hope is that it won’t and dump it completely. An acceptable alternative would be the option to disable the live counters.

There’s no benefit for the viewer from knowing how many likes the clip is getting in real-time or how many people are viewing the content. I wouldn’t change my mind about watching a YouTube video just because those counters tick up while I’m watching.

Even if you make an argument that the live stats counters can inform you about a clip’s popularity, I’d still say they’re not genuine. Remember that Google removed the dislike counter from YouTube. Therefore, you don’t get to see how many people discount a post, in real-time or otherwise.

It’s unclear how these live statistics would help content creators. And even if they did, the feature should be more useful inside the YouTube dashboard for creators, where they’d check out stats for their clips.

As AndroidPolice points out, there’s no documentation from Google on the YouTube test. Should Google bring the live counters to all YouTube apps, it’ll likely offer explanations as to why the live counters are needed.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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