Likes and dislikes are the social capital of YouTube. Great videos garner hundreds of thousands of Likes. Unloved ones receive almost as many dislikes.
This lucre, so easy to give out but so hard to earn, is what drives YouTube content creators and many of its visitors. It’s shorthand that makes transparent the good, the bad and the ugly video. If that simple pair of thumbs up, thumbs down buttons were to disappear or — worse yet — be replaced, some people would be very, very unhappy.
We know this for a fact now — because actor, author and ubergeek Wil Wheaton made what he called his “rage face” and launched a full-on, profanity-laced rant on his blog and Tumblr when he discovered that the traditional YouTube “Like” buttons had been replaced with one large Google+ Like button.
Wheaton, who says he likes Google+, wrote:
“This is just as bad as companies forcing me to ‘like’ something on Facebook before I can view whatever it is they want me to “like,” Wheaton continued, “Just let me thumbs up something, without forcing me to “upgrade” to G+, you d–kheads.”
Wheaton’s point was that Google seemed to be steering people toward its nascent social networking platform whether they wanted to use it or not.
I did some investigating, but couldn’t recreate the button, whether or not I was logged into Google+ or any of my YouTube accounts. In the meantime, I posted a public question in Google+ to Google’s Bradley Horowitz about Wheaton’s rage-filled post and if this was just a test. I also asked him to elaborate on the importance of leveraging all the eyeballs on Google’s other services to grow Google+.
Some Google+ members chimed in. One noted that he hadn’t seen the new button, while others argued about whether or not it made sense for Google to make changes anywhere that might help propel Google+ forward.
Horowitz didn’t respond, but a Google spokesman eventually did:
“We’re always experimenting to help users find, watch and share the videos that matter most to them, on YouTube and across all of Google’s products including Google+. Depending on user feedback, some of these experiments may become options for users and some may not.”
It’s a clear indication that what Wheaton saw was an experiment and possibly nothing more. Considering how few people saw the Google+ Like button on YouTube and Wheaton’s very public reaction, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see that button again.
Even so, the question remains: What can and should Google do to make Google+ as popular and pervasive as Facebook? The company has already publicly stated that with Google+ it’s actually building Google 2.0, meaning that it’s the hub for everything Google does, including Search, Gmail and YouTube.
Integrating Google+ with Google’s far more popular and well-established services is the most obvious path for success. So we may not see that button in that space again, but we’ll certainly see a lot more of Google+.
How comfortable are you with the Google+ification of Google’s services? Will it make you any more or less likely to use the Google’s social platform? Tell us in the comments.