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YouTube Trends: Why We Like To Dislike

Updated on June 21, 2011

When Google removed YouTube's 5 star rating system, people were angry. Change is often hard for people to accept. Now, YouTube videos get ranked on how many people “like” and “dislike” them. Not only does YouTube use this, but Facebook and comment boards are also following this trend. Rating content has always been an ingenious method of crowd-sourcing What better way to sort great content from bad content like a good old fashion show of hands? Web democracy has been one of the main driving forces that powered the success of YouTube. What happens when this fail? It's also curious that Facebook does not have a “dislike” button. Why not? Let's look into this growing web trend and see what conclusions we can draw from it. Maybe we can explain why we like to dislike.

How exactly did this trend start? Why did YouTube change it's rating system to give users less options?

Thumbs Up For 5 Stars

With the original 5 star rating system, users had 5 options to choose from. 1 star being the worse and 5 stars being the best. This was the standard for years and it served its purpose fairly well. If a video was bad, low quality, or if you simply hated it, you can vote it 1 star and hopefully other people will also rate it down. If you liked a video and wished to promote it, rate it 5 stars and hopefully, it will get popular. As good as this system was, there were some flaws. For one, most people either voted 1 star or 5 stars. Very rarely would you see someone vote 3 stars or anything other than 1 or 5. If your think about it, it make sense. Voting takes work. You have to point your mouse, aim, and click a star. If you are not logged in, YouTube will redirect you to log in. This requires more work. I understand that it doesn't take much effort to log in and vote but this goes to show how lazy people are.

If rating a video takes work, why would someone waste energy voting 3 stars? A 3 star rating is basically a vote of indifference. If people don't like or hate a video, it's much easier to click on another video than to make a seemingly pointless vote. A 3 star vote is basically aimed at diluting the pool. Future 1 star votes are weakened as well as 5 star votes. After a few years, certain trends started to develop from this system. Some of these trends are useful and some are deceitful.


One of these trends is what I like to call, “The Glance”. The Glance is basically a quick look. Most of the time when people browse YouTube, they are impatient. The Glance aims to save as much time as possible. When you click on a video, before it loads, quickly glance at the ratings. If the average is way low for example, 3 stars, then that video is skipped. I am not going to waste 2-10 minutes watching a 3 star video. Would you? The Glance also works with the new system. Glance at how many likes and dislikes and decide for yourself if it is watch worthy. This can help you avoid garbage “Rick-Rolls” and dime-a-dozen “Bodies”(Drowning Pool) compilations.

Everyone Hates Disabled Rating/Comments

One example of deceitful abuse of the rating system is the “disabled ratings and comments”. Basically, what happens is you see a video and it has a 5 star rating. The video is almost always low quality. In my opinion, this is considered abuse of the ratings system. The video uploader gets another account to rate it 5 stars and then immediately disables ratings. As you can guess, the ratings stay and there is no way to change the average. A good thing about the new “like/dislike” system is if a video disables ratings, it is gone. There is no average. Therefore, uploaders can't use this sneaky trick in order to exploit the system.

When Votebots Attack

The 5 star rating system has also been a target of abuse. This abuse comes in the form of “votebots”. Votebots are programs that aim to alter the rating system by bombarding a video with hundreds of 1 star ratings. This was a trend that occurred often in religious/atheist videos. I don't think the new “like/dislike” system had any effect on votebots. I think the decrease in votebot frequency had more to do with Google's updated security.

An Undecided Vote?

Rating videos can be a fun way to interact and contribute with the community. There are some times when rating becomes confusing. For example, sometimes the uploader would post an offensive video but also calls it offensive in the title. Confused? Imagine a video with the title “This monster kicks a puppy!”. You see the video and you are obviously disgusted. What do you do? Do you rate the video “dislike” because you find it disgusting or do you “like” it because you agree with the uploader? By “liking it”, you can also help get the video exposure, not because you agree with it, but because you feel compelled to have others see it. Decisions are sometimes hard!

Selling Out?

This past year, Google made a controversial move by removing the “Most Popular” videos and replacing it with “Spotlight Videos”. This was heavily criticized by people that feel Google just wanted to control and monetize YouTube. Spotlight videos and the rise of YouTube partner, “Fred” has also raised suspicions of their stance on open web. Why is Google trying to promote trash channels like Fred? Who's greasing their hands?

Like You Know... Whatever...

Google isn't the only one getting flak. When Facebook implemented their “Like” button, many people were left scratching their heads when they couldn't find the “Dislike” button. Facebook didn't have one! It wasn't a mistake either. Most likely, Facebook omitted the “Dislike” button because of money. It was in their best interest to remove any negative feedback. Imagine featuring and promoting a client's video or fan page. How bad would it look if it had 25 “likes” and 560 “dislikes”? That's what happened when YouTube first promoted "Spotlight Videos" and that's also the problem with having only a “like” button. You have no knowledge of how many people hate it. You also get a false sense of approval. 560 people could hate the page but you wouldn't know this if you only saw 25 “likes”.

Final Thoughts

Having a single vote is annoying. It's like giving a smoker a cigarette but no lighter. If you want people to crowd-source for you, fine. Just do it right. Give us more control. Personally, I hated the change YouTube made but I will admit that it's better than Facebook's method. Google also implemented this rating system on their comments. Some comment boards on certain sites have a similar rating system. Some use Google's method and some use Facebook's inferior system. The good thing about Google's rating system is trust. I am more willing to trust ratings if there are at least some dislikes. If you come across content that has only “likes” then it's becomes a popularity contest. It almost feels like there's a degree of censorship. This is where people start to feel deceit and distrust. A video or a post that has 500 “likes” with 500 views should be more valuable than a paid post with 500 “likes” and 500,000 views. It feels underhanded, kind of like a crooked politician paying for votes. Luckily for you, you have the option to “like” or “dislike” this hub below. Unlike many YouTube video whores, I won't solicit any ratings. Vote with your gut. Thanks for reading.

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