It was the November of 2021. The world was still recuperating from global health-related events, and people were spending a lot more time online than usual. Shockingly, YouTube made a change that remains controversial, even a year and a half after the fact. Namely, across the platform, the dislike count was made private. The only person who could view the number of dislikes was the owner of the channel. And while the dislike button itself wasn’t removed, the ability to see the dislikes was now part of history.
And lots of people did not like that.
Both content creators and regular users expressed their disdain regarding this decision. After all, the dislikes had been an integral part of YouTube since its inception in the mid-2000s. To put it simply, it could compare with removing reposts or stories on Instagram or hashtags on Twitter.
Of course, as a private company, YouTube has every right to enforce any policy it wants. But why did the corporate bigwigs over at YouTube even decide to remove the dislike count? And furthermore, is there any way to get it back in the near future? Let’s delve in deep to find out.
Naturally, right after (or rather, right before) the act itself, YouTube representatives put out a public statement. Roughly a year later, the CEO herself, Susan Wojcicki, broke the silence and gave her own two cents on the real reason behind blocking the dislike counts from view.
In her annual letter, which outlines YouTube’s yearly plans, Wojcicki wrote at length about the dislike count decision. She said that a video would receive dislikes not because of its contents but because certain individuals had negative opinions about the creator(s) in general. That type of engagement was harmful, she stated, because potential viewers would see the like-to-dislike ratio and assume it was a bad video. She lists this fact as the reason behind the dislikes not showing on the search results, the home page, or the Up Next screen.
‘We also saw the dislike count harming parts of our ecosystem through dislike attacks,’ Wojcicki added, claiming that individuals used dislikes as a means of “attacking” certain creators. Considering how strict both Google and YouTube harassment policies are, it makes perfect sense that the company would want to reduce any amount of cyber harassment, even if it took the form of mass disliking.
Of course, despite what both Susan Wojcicki and the PR team of YouTube claim, people want to see the dislike count back. Sure, they can still actually dislike the videos they watch, but without the feedback in the form of information, what’s the point?
However, the company remains firm in its decision to hide the dislike count. It’s now the middle of 2023, and the videos only show the number of likes. Since the main reason behind the decision has to do with protecting people from cyberbullying, the removal of the dislike count will not be reversed any time soon.
Naturally, people on YouTube didn’t take this move lying down. Instead, they spoke out in droves against the decision, offering both good and mediocre arguments in favor of keeping the dislike count. In fact, some individuals went a step further and shared a petition pertaining to the dislike count’s return. What’s more, even Jawed Karim, one of the original co-founders of the platform, protested the decision.
But why would both the creators and the users be against hiding the dislike count? Do they really have a case against the decision, or do they simply enjoy watching people cry and wince over bad ratings?
Well, no, that’s clearly not it. Instead, the reason is far more simple than anyone had realized. To users, and especially to the creators, the dislike button served as a sober reminder of their level of quality. People who leave dislikes can genuinely hate the video or the person who made it. And expressing that is every bit as valid as expressing joy or support.
As mean-spirited as piles of dislikes can be, they are also a useful tool for figuring out the quality of your work and then improving later. When a video gets a dislike or two, that’s an indication of at least some errors. But when there’s an entire barrage of dislikes, then it’s a straightforward signal that the uploader must improve their video editing skills, the quality of their content, and the relevance of each topic.
Since YouTube itself won’t return the dislike count, it’s up to third-party software manufacturers to help. Depending on what kind of browser you use, you’ll want to get an extension like Return YouTube Dislike. This app will show you the full like-to-dislike ratio, including the dislikes made recently. It’s a fairly clunky substitute for the real dislike button, sure. But it gets the job done, and it does it well. And the best part? It’s easy to install and just as easy to remove if need be.