YouTube Red? YouTube Heroes? What do all these names mean? If you’re a purist, you probably remember the good ole days when online fame meant 50,000 subscribers, instead of 50 million, and any video you could imagine was in reach with a couple clicks.
In 2006, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion but allowed the company to continue functioning independently. Although these changes did not initially affect the nature of YouTube, changes made to its usage rules and security will dramatically affect the consumer.
If you were on the site during the fall of 2015, you probably heard about YouTube Red, a paid streaming service created by YouTube to offer more content and perks to its users. For $9.99 a month, subscribers get advertisement-free videos, offline downloading of videos, background playback options, access to ad-free streaming through Google Play Music, and access to YouTube Red Original Series.
Some feel that these features are not worth the monthly fee. “Honestly, I think that a corporation as big as Google shouldn’t have to charge people for that kind of service,” said Seattle U film student Zack Silberman. “I think that the only thing of value that the service provides is the ability to listen to YouTube in other apps.”
When YouTube and Google first announced this idea, many YouTube content creators and users were up in arms. Many of their qualms were against things such as ad revenue, and who exactly YouTube Red would be benefitting.
“It worries me that, as a YouTube creator, I have no idea what “YouTube Red” is, or how it will affect my channel, beyond what’s in the media,” said popular YouTuber Vi Hart. Despite this, YouTube Red rang in the new year with promising numbers, attracting 3 percent of viewers in the subscriptions service market. These numbers, seemingly small, were actually higher than streaming services released around the same time.
This boom in the subscription streaming market is partially due to the cultural trend of the millennial generation straying from traditional cable because of its price and inaccessibility.
Why does this matter to the casual YouTube user? With higher paid viewership, this forces some unprecedented content changes, which is what those against YouTube Red feared in the first place. Lundy Park, a Seattle U student and YouTuber, mentions the stigma facing both sponsored and unsponsored YouTubers, saying that it can seem disingenuous when channels produce content because they are being payed by a sponsor, which is what it is happening with YouTube Red.
“It is going to dilute the amount of people genuinely expressing themselves,” Park said.
Although YouTube personnel declined to comment on inquiries about the YouTube Heroes’ implementation, this new security feature is an addition people should expect when purchasing the product.
“In my cyber Security class I took here at SU, we learned that the biggest weakness in any security framework is the people who use it,” said computer science student Nolan Carlton.
Using a new tag-team security system to monitor online content, YouTube made a statement on their blog saying “we want to do more to empower the people who contribute to YouTube in other ways. That’s why we’re introducing YouTube Heroes, a program designed to recognize and support the global community of people who consistently help make YouTube a better experience for everyone.”
What the YouTube experience entails is that any YouTube user can gain points and level up depending on how much they contribute the security climate of YouTube. This can be done by flagging mass amounts of videos for internal review by Google, adding subtitles to videos or finding inappropriate content disguised as something else. As you do more of these things, you can level up to a new YouTube Heroes level which allows higher security training and the ability to unlock super tools. Those exceptionally good at being a YouTube Hero have the chance to receive Top Hero Perks or an invitation to YouTube’s annual Heroes Summit.
With this mass-flagging feature, the question of what creators will be able to produce has become a concern.
“I sort of feel like it’s good because it allows people to become more intimately involved in YouTube,” Park said. “But it’s also a bad idea because I think it can get complicated with conflicts of interest.”
It is unclear how YouTube Heroes will work in practice, and whether it will affect the online community as much as skeptics perceive. Due to YouTube Red’s commercial success, the site as we know it could be changing its role in the internet community.
Madeline may be reached at