Ever read the comments on a popular YouTube video? There is no faster way to strip yourself of faith in humanity. It's a cesspool. And this is coming from someone who writes for the Gawker network. We know a little something about rowdy comments sections. YouTube's is worse, but it's finally about to smarten up.
Right now, the way comments work on YouTube is that the last rando person who said anything is featured up toward the top. This person didn't necessarily say anything insightful, useful, or even intelligible. So why feature them? The new system will use algorithms to determine the people you most likely want to see up top. That includes comments from your friends, from the video creator, and from “popular personalities” (i.e. celebs of one type or another).
But it gets better. Currently, since comments are displayed as they come in, trying to follow a conversation and figure out who is replying to what is utterly perplexing. YouTube will finally feature threaded conversations, so it will be easy and intuitive to see who is yelling what at whom. Considering Google owns both YouTube and Gmail—which brought threaded conversations to the masses—it's kind of crazy that it took this long to integrate this.
The new conversation platform isn't actually powered by YouTube. It's powered by Google+. This actually makes a fair amount of sense. After all, maybe you want to put a comment on a video that your friends or followers can see, but you don't feel like being screamed at for your opinions by a bunch of anonymous internet trolls. When you comment on a YouTube video you'll be able to decide if you want it to be public, only visible to people within your Circles, or even just to specific people of your choosing. This will also enable content creators to start conversations that only their fans (or paying subscribers) can see, if they so desire.
Additionally, there will be a sort of cross-posting between YouTube and Google+. If you post a YouTube video on Google+ and some one comments on it there, the comment will show up on the video over at YouTube, too. Alternatively, they could choose to have their comment only show up on YouTube, or only show up on Google+. There's a lot more control.
Unfortunately, the anonymity of YouTube comments has brought out the worst in a lot of people. You will see racist, sexist, homophobic, ignorant, and/or horrible comments on virtually every popular post. Currently, content creators can choose to allow all comments in, turn off commenting completely, or manually approve each comment. For big channels that garner millions of views a week, it isn't possible to go through every comment that comes in—but now, YouTube is introducing filters that will make it easier.
With filters, content creators will not only be able to assign people to an Approved list or a Blocked list (which will auto-approve or auto-reject comments, respectively), but they will be able to add keywords to a Blacklist. This will flag comments that contain those words (or words closely resembling them) and send them into a sort of limbo, where the content creator can go through and approve later, if they so desire. One might filter words commonly associated with hate-speech, or the word “spoiler,” or “stupid,” and so on.
Now, idiots are very good at intentionally misspelling horrible words to get them through filters, so we'll see how good YouTube's filters are are catching the variations, but really, anything that reduces the amount of intolerant and/or cruel jackassery on the internet is a good thing.
The threaded comments powered by Google+ begin rolling out today and throughout the week. Filters will be available today for channel pages only, but in the months to come they'll be rolled out for every individual video, giving content creators and commenters alike more granular control over the conversations they participate in. This change has been a long time coming.