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Why The New YouTube Design Will Drive You Insane

It makes it extremely hard to see into the past. And isn't that a big part of what YouTube is for?

Last updated on July 3, 2018, at 11:53 a.m. ET

Posted on December 7, 2012, at 6:13 p.m. ET

Visually, YouTube's new design is a big upgrade: It's far less noisy, the colors are less offensive, and the new Flash player is beautifully simple – a call-back, almost, to the original three-color player from 2005-6. But the design includes some functional changes, too. Google says the design is intended to make it easier to "find the channels you love and subscribe, subscribe, subscribe;" which, aside from sounding a little obsessive, makes sense. The future of YouTube, writes John Seabrook, is all about premium content, or channels.

This update is the first that actually hurts old YouTube in service of the new. One of the first things I noticed was that there's no way to search for videos by date anymore. You can search within the last hour, day, week, month or year, but you can't sort by newest or oldest.

This is a pretty important feature for the world's biggest video archive, I think!

And yet it was intentionally removed, as YouTube PR told BuzzFeed FWD on Twitter:


@jwherrman @mattbuchanan So - search by default is all time. "This year" is a filter on top of that.

@jwherrman @mattbuchanan So - search by default is all time. "This year" is a filter on top of that.-- Matt McLernon

@jwherrman @mattbuchanan The time sort feature we had in the past, but had a bad user experience. Could always come back around tho

@jwherrman @mattbuchanan The time sort feature we had in the past, but had a bad user experience. Could always come back around tho-- Matt McLernon

This may seem like a minor issue, but it's consequential. A search for "John McAfee" was flooded with recent results, when my hope was to find archival footage from before his meltdown. Filtering to "this year" was little help; what I needed was a simple chronological or reverse chronological sort.

This is also indicative of a larger problem with Google products that I've described before. Unless Google+ catches on in a big way, Google has no real social product. And it's making the company behave strangely, in big ways and small.

Social networks are a great place to find recently created content. But that's just a secondary advantage: the main advantage is that they surface it in an intelligent way. They take into account what your friends, and people around you, are doing and looking for.

In an apparently effort to match the immediacy and relevance of social networks (with regards to news, specifically) Google has drastically overemphasized recent links in its search results. But seeing dozens of versions of the same recent story just makes the results seem dumb and noisy, not more "social." What Google has created is not a better search product but a crude simulacrum of social search. It's maddening.

Now, this philosophy has crept into YouTube, too, and it's probably here to stay.

Google's founding mission was to "organize the world’s information;" a goal it still proclaims on its About page. This seems further from the truth every day. Perhaps a more accurate motto would be: "Figure out what to do about this Facebook problem."