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YouTube will start breaking your home feed if you have your watch history turned off

Published Aug 8th, 2023 4:13PM EDT
YouTube app
Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

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YouTube really wants everyone to tell them what they’re watching.

Up until now, if you used YouTube but didn’t want the company to retain knowledge of what videos you were watching on the platform, you’ve had the option to turn your watch history off. This would disable Google’s ability to keep a record of all of the videos you’ve watched. While this meant that YouTube couldn’t learn what kinds of videos you prefer and make better recommendations on suggested videos, you’d still be able to see what was generally popular or trending on the platform on the Home feed.

It appears that YouTube doesn’t like that approach anymore. In a blog post, the company announced that it will be changing how the Home feed works for users who have their watch history turned off. Basically, it won’t work. Starting today, if you have your watch history turned off, the Home tab will no longer show you any videos at all. Nothing from your subscription…nothing from trending…nothing at all.

Instead, you’ll be presented with an alert that says, “Your watch history is off. You can change your setting at any time to get the latest videos tailored to you.” And, of course, there is a button that will take you right to that setting to turn your watch history on.

Starting today, if you have YouTube watch history off and have no significant prior watch history, features that require watch history to provide video recommendations will be disabled – like your YouTube home feed. This means that starting today, your home feed may look a lot different: you’ll be able to see the search bar and the left-hand guide menu, with no feed of recommended videos thus allowing you to more easily search, browse subscribed channels and explore Topic tabs instead.

The company says that it is making this change “to make it more clear which YouTube features rely on watch history to provide video recommendations and make it more streamlined for those of you who prefer to search rather than browse recommendations,” but I can’t help but feel that this is more of a move to try and influence people to turn this on.

If you have this turned off, you’re obviously doing so because you prefer Google not to have an endless record of the videos you are watching on YouTube — it’s adding a level of privacy to your experience. What do you get for asking for privacy? With YouTube, the answer is to break the main feed and “politely” suggest that you forgo that privacy to have a fully functional app.

I’m really confused as to why YouTube can’t just turn the Home feed into a list of the most popular videos on the platform or basically anything except disabling the section altogether, but I have a hunch that the whole point is to pressure users to — if they truly want a fully functioning experience — turn on that watch history and give the company your data. Hopefully, the company will change its approach here to something that I’m sure some will take as hostile to its users.

Google says that it is rolling out this change over the next few months, so you may still have a home feed for a little while before it is taken away from you (if you have your watch history turned off, of course).

Joe Wituschek Tech News Contributor

Joe Wituschek is a Tech News Contributor for BGR.

With expertise in tech that spans over 10 years, Joe covers the technology industry's breaking news, opinion pieces and reviews.